Area Parks Prepare As Emerald Ash Borer Spreads Closer - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Area Parks Prepare As Emerald Ash Borer Spreads Closer

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     Preparing for a possible infestation of a destructive insect. The Emerald Ash Borer has recently been discovered in more areas close to the QCA, including Whiteside County in Illinois and in Burlington, Iowa. It could have a big impact on parks in particular.
     West Lake Park near Davenport is one place proactive steps are being taken. In several lines or groups of trees every other ash tree was removed completely and replaced by an oak to lessen the impact if the bug arrives. some cities are coordinating similar plans as the infestation spreads, but for the parks it's also a major undertaking.
      Of all the trees in the 620 acres of West Lake Park about 60 to 70 percent are ash trees. That means the presence of the little green pests could be devastating. 
      "It's a big concern for us," said Roger Larson, Park Manager. "Naturally, the ash tree is a pretty prominent tree in Iowa."
      The bugs kill ash trees by burrowing under the bark. Park officials say they've taken the issue seriously since the beginning by educating campers and not allowing any out of state firewood or wood from quarantined areas like Allamakee County, Iowa. That's how the destructive insects are moved from one place to another.
      "We have them burn their firewood immediately on the spot," said Larson.
      Along with having sticky box traps, West Lake is partnering with the DNR as a "test host site." That means an ash tree is picked and part of the bark damaged to actually attract the insect if it's transported here. "It's more of here's a tree come get us. We know it's right here. It's kind of a controlled or scientific process," said Larson.
     Over the last couple of years crews have removed several hundred of the parks ash trees. They go to areas like the campgrounds and along the roads where the impact would be most visible and replace some of the ash trees with other species. It's a tedious process that's not cheap considering all the equipment, manpower and replacement trees involved. If the infestation gets closer crews will have to pick up the pace.
     "It's going to be a major focus of what we're trying to do... I'd like to say it'd never happen."
     Iowa state officials say a quarantine will soon be issued for Des Moines County to be the second location in the state where the beetle was found.. In Illinois, 41 counties are currently quarantined to prevent the spread of the insects.