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The Columbus Parks and Recreation Department is expanding its work against the emerald ash borer infestation by inventorying city trees and helping educate the public about the plague.
The emerald ash borer has been devastating ash trees since it was introduced in the Detroit area from Asia in 2002.
The bug since has spread to Indiana and locally has been verified in Brown, Shelby and Johnson counties, according to Purdue University.
In some areas of northern Indiana the plague has wiped out 60 percent of the tree canopy.
Columbus residents will be able to learn more about the spread and impact of the emerald ash borer and the costs to residents during an informational meeting from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday at Donner Center.
The session will feature presentations by Chad Tinkel, superintendent of urban forestry with the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department, and Carrie Tauscher, an urban forester with the Indiana Department of National Resources, Division of Forestry.
Casey Ritz, the Columbus parks department’s maintenance manager, said the emerald ash borer has yet to be positively identified in Bartholomew County, but with the infestations in neighboring counties, it is believed the insect already is here.
Ritz said the emerald ash borer will do as much damage to local trees as Dutch elm disease did during the last century.
“It just devastates the population,” Ritz said.
“It doesn’t just make them sick; it kills them.”
Earlier this year, the Columbus parks department inventoried all ash trees in city parks and is now spreading that work to other city properties, Ritz said.
Initial estimates on the cost to handle the infestation in the nearly 400 ash trees in Columbus parks are $200,000 to $300,000 over the next 10 years.
“This isn’t a normal pest problem that we have coming,” he said.
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