Emerald Ash Borer half way through destructive cycle in Cornwall, says arborist

Cornwall Municipal Arborist Supervisor, Scott Porter, explains the progress of the Emerald Ash Borer damage to city ash trees during a film screening Sunday April 23, 2017 at the Cornwall Public Library. Porter says the city is taking down roughly 1,200 ash trees this year. The most noticeable removals will be on Nick Kaneb Drive. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – The supervisor of Cornwall’s Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) program believes the city is about half way through the destructive cycle of the tree-killing beetle from Asia.

Municipal Arborist Supervisor Scott Porter provided an update Sunday on the invasive species to about 70 people following a screening of the movie “Intelligent Trees,” which profiles scientific research into how trees communicate.

The movie screening at the Cornwall Public Library was organized by Transition Cornwall+. Porter was a special guest for a Q&A session.

The Emerald Ash Borer only attacks ash trees, killing them by burrowing into the wood and cutting off the flow of water and nutrients to the tree.

“Ash borer, over the next 10 years, all our ash trees in Cornwall, either private or city, will be dead, unfortunately. It’s actually accelerated,” Porter said to gasps from the audience.

There are approximately 4,000 municipally-owned and 4,000-4,500 privately-owned ash trees in the City of Cornwall.

The City of Ottawa is trying an invasive wasp but Porter explained it’s too late in the game to try it in Cornwall. “They’re trying it but, unfortunately, by the time they introduce it to the market, ash borer has already gone through Cornwall, so it’s other communities it’s going to help.”

He said the city is continuing to be proactive by either removing trees that could be a risk to the community (1,200 will be removed this year) and by injecting others (200 injected this year) to preserve them while new trees are growing.

Porter explained the TreeAzin injections have been successful with only an eight per cent loss of trees that have been injected. He also notes that tree death may not entirely be due to EAB but other factors like drought.

As for clearing out infected trees, the most noticeable clearing this year is on the west side of Nick Kaneb Drive, north of Holy Cross Boulevard, where roughly 500 “highly infested” ash trees are being removed.

“We’re not clear cutting…we wait until we see signs, and then we remove the trees. We are leaving the healthy ones as long as possible and that’s why the city is doing a 10-15 year plan of removing,” Porter said.

“It never was put in place to actually save the trees over time. It’s to save the canopy as long as possible while we replant,” Porter added.

As for what will replace the city’s ash trees, Porter said a wide selection of 39 varieties are being planted around the city. The city had normally planted 40-50 trees a year and Porter said that’s been accelerated to 800-1,000 trees.

The arborist added that city council “has been great” in supporting the TreeAzin program to preserve the healthy ash until new trees have time to grow. He added that council has been great with its budget to allow for additional planting.

Porter spent roughly 20 minutes taking questions from the audience about the future of ash trees and tree preservation.

On a question about Akwesasne’s involvement, Porter added the City of Cornwall is working in partnership with Akwesasne, especially with regard to black ash, which is used for basket weaving and basket making.

People start to arrive at the Cornwall Public Library on Sunday April 23, 2017 for a screening of a movie on trees. The event, which saw approximately 70 people attend, included an update from the city’s arborist supervisor on the progress of the Emerald Ash Borer. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

Arboretum in Lamoureux Park

As for the city’s replanting program, Porter described a new project coming up shortly, which is coinciding with Canada 150.

People will also get a chance to see those new trees being planted up close in a new arboretum this spring in Lamoureux Park.

Two trees of each of the 39 species will be planted with identifying tags in English, French, Mohawk, Latin species name and braille.

“There will be a map. So, if you want to see what the species looks like, you will be able to go into the park…touch it, feel it, smell it,” he said.

“(It’s) an amazing job that Scott is doing,” one woman said. “Image our own arboretum with two of each species that he’s planting. I think it’s nice to have some positive stuff in the media of what’s going on in the city,” she said to a round of applause from the audience.