Now that the Emerald Ash Borer has been confirmed in Onondaga County, local governments are trying to find the best strategy to deal with the invasive pests that will ultimately kill all the ash trees in the area. One of the county's biggest challenges lies in one of the busiest public green spaces in central New York, at Onondaga Lake Park.
Onondaga Lake Park is home to about 4,400 ash trees in what are called drop zones, places where falling timber could land on visitors, cars or buildings. The the park is also within a ten mile radius of where the beetles have already been identified, according to Onondaga County Environmental Director David Coburn.
"We know the beetle," Coburn said. "If it's not already there, it will be there soon. So we don't have a lot of time to wait and decide how we're going to manage those trees."
The county is now trying to devise a management plan. Coburn says there are number of factors when deciding whether to take down an ash tree or inoculate it with pesticide.
"If they're offering important shade for picnicking, if they're offering shoreline stabilization or if they're shading a building and would help reduce the electricity and natural gas charges, those are ones we'd be more likely give greater consideration to for preservation," Coburn said.
The choices are taking down the trees, or inoculating them with pesticide. At this point, he expects there will be different strategies in different parts of the park, for example the heavily traveled East Lake Trail.
"There are a significant number of large ash trees that provide a lot of useful canopy as part of shade, filtering pollutants out of the air, protecting the ground from storm water runoff, and stabilizing the shoreline in that area," Coburn said. "We even have some Lights on the Lake features attached to some of these ash trees."
The county is also going to have to keep the Indiana Bat in mind. The rare and endangered species of bat roosts in some of the ash trees that may need to be taken down. Coburn says that puts a time limit on their plans.
"They go into hibernation after Halloween, and then come out again in April," Coburn said. "So in most instances, we're going to be limited to doing tree removals in that November to March period."
Coburn is looking for public input on what strategy the county should take. So far, there have been some public meetings and Coburn expects to solicit comment on the Onondaga County website as well. The invasive insect can kill an ash tree in as little as two years. About 13 percent of the tree population in central New York is made up of ash trees.