If you’re an ash tree, here’s some friendly advice.
Get out of town. Fast.
An Asian beetle is munching its way across the Northeast and it’s only a matter of time before it stops in Morristown for a bite, town Forester Richard Wolowicz told the town council on Tuesday.
The Emerald Ash Borer spells certain doom for ash trees: Nearly all of America’s estimated 7.5 billion ash trees will die as this pest advances, according to Wolowicz. Already, an estimated 50 million of these trees have been killed in the Northeast.
By comparison, Dutch Elm Disease took an estimated 75- to 100 million elm trees in the U.S.
Humans can be harmed, too — by branches falling from ash trees that become brittle after the Emerald Ash Borer kills them, the forester said.
Detected around Michigan and Canada in 2002, this beetle may have arrived from Asia in the early 1990s, in bark on cargo pallets.
So far, the insect has been reported in 32 New Jersey towns across nine counties; Bridgewater and Montclair are the affected municipalities closest to Morristown, Wolowicz said.
Larvae tunnel into ash trees, feeding under the bark.
“This disrupts the flow of nutrients, and kills the tree,” explained Wolowicz. A neighborhood with ash trees could lose all its foliage in just three years, he said.
The Emerald Ash Borer can fly five miles in a year. It also can hitch a ride in wood transported by people. This poses challenges for disposal of dead ash trees, cautioned Wolowicz, who attended Tuesday’s meeting with Kristin Ace, chairperson of the Morristown Shade Tree Commission.
Options for fighting back are limited.
Wasps and woodpeckers eat Emerald Ash Borers, but not in numbers sufficient to stop the infestation.
Treating ash trees with pesticides involves annual treatments for 20 years, a costly proposition, Wolowicz said.
Ash trees in China are resistant to these bugs and eventually may provide a genetic answer to the problem.
In the meantime, Purdue University recommends sacrificing ash trees less than a foot thick, and treating those that are healthy, historic or have sentimental value.
Wolowicz has started tagging ash trees across Morristown. Some 179 have been identified along streets, and at least 50 more have been counted in four town parks. About half of these public trees are in poor condition, he said.
The municipal budget will include funds to remove the sickly trees, said town Administrator Jillian Barrick.
SPEED HUMP DEBATE
In other business…
Town Engineer Anthony Devizio agreed to survey residents on Lake Road about their satisfaction with speed humps there, after a longtime resident called the measures “overkill” that is killing his family’s quality of life..
Humps installed last year, after talks with residents, have curbed speeding significantly, according to Devisio.
But 23-year resident Rob Weidemann said noise from cars and trucks clattering over the hump near his home keeps him awake at night, and hinders naps for his wife, who works 12-hour shifts as a nurse.
They also hear blaring car radios when vehicles slow down to cross the hump, said Weidemann, noting his prior suggestion for a blinking red light got shot down.
Calling Weidemann’s plight “definitely disturbing,” Councilwoman Michelle Duprée Harris asked the engineer to re-survey Lake Road residents.
She also requested that he schedule a meeting enabling Weidemann to share his situation with neighbors, to gauge if they would support re-shaping or removing the hump near the man’s house.
While agreeing to do so, Devizio defended the installation.
“Unfortunately, it’s the needs of the masses over the needs of the individual,” he said. “We try to accommodate each individual as best we can, but at the end of the day that’s not always possible.”
Peter Fifoot, a 17-year-old senior at Jefferson Township High School, got a standing ovation from the council after he accepted Mayor Tim Dougherty’s proclamation of April as Autism Awareness Month.
Fifoot has struggled to overcome autism, “a roadblock disability that hampers relationships and language” and kept him silent until age 3.
Accepting the proclamation on behalf of Autism New Jersey, he urged town officials to help autistic people “realize their dreams, not discourage them.
“My family has let me dream,” Fifoot said. “I’m also aspiring to go to college to be a sports broadcaster or lawyer. Remember, it takes a village to raise a child.”