FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Since 2006, the city has lost approximately 13,000 trees due to the Emerald Ash Borer. Park department leaders said the trees that could cause hazardous have been removed, and the city can go back to maintaining all the trees throughout the city.
During the eight year battle with the Emerald Ash Borer, a small green beetle, the city has lost additional trees due to severe storms, age, and other natural causes. The total loss is approximately 17,000 trees when those are added to the ash borer total. Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation has battled back, planting approximately 10,000 trees during that time.
Recently, Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Superintendent of Urban Forestry updated Fort Wayne City Council on his department’s progress. “We are now done cutting ash trees throughout the City of Fort Wayne,” he said. “We are now in the process of replanting and trying to re-gain our canopy back from the loss.”
Tinkel said his office is also responsible for pruning trees in the right-of-way. The main purpose is to help utility workers, garbage trucks, and first responders to get next to the curb without tree branches in the way. However, due to the EAB, his crews have not been able to prune. “Those internal crews have not been able to actually get out and prune trees for the past five years,” he said. Now that the department is no longer tearing down dead ash trees, the parks department will have two sets of crews pruning trees. The four full-time forestry staff is responsible for maintaining street trees and trees at the city’s 86 parks.
The park’s department also has contracts with private businesses to help with pruning. This year’s contract is for 3,026 trees to get pruned at the cost of $137,818.87. Once it is approved by council, the company awarded the contract has 12 months to complete the work.
At any given time, park workers maintain 55,000 trees. The goal is to keep all the trees on an eight-year cycle. This year, workers will put an emphasis on trimming trees inside the city’s southwest quadrant.
“This is a big year for us, to be able to get back to our normal pruning cycle and getting back to our normal maintenance,” Tinkel said. “The biggest think people will probably notice is raising the trees up and opening them up.”
The trees are supposed to be trimmed so they’re at least 14 feet off the street, and eight feet over the sidewalk. Crews will also take out the dead wood and prune out any parts that don’t help the tree grow.
Tinkel added that only a few Indiana counties, approximately 10 in the southwest corner of the state, are not under quarantine due to the EAB. Despite the city moving away from tearing down old Ash trees, Tinkel did not expect Allen County to have its quarantine lifted any time soon.