VALPARAISO | The city's battle with the emerald ash borer beetle goes on, but it got some reinforcements recently in the form of a $5,000 grant from the Alliance for Community Trees to pay for replacement trees.
Ann Brugos, who is coordinating the beetle battle for the city's Public Works Department, said the money will be used to restore the Miller Woods area of Kirhchhoff Park, where the city recently removed 38 dead ash trees. It will be part of the Neighborwoods Program of the alliance, and the city hopes to get about 50 new trees.
"Slowly but surely the city's ash trees are coming down," Brugos said. "A handful of good specimens we are saving with chemicals, but most are coming down."
The Alliance for Community Trees is a national nonprofit that receives private donations for reforestation and community trees. The money the city is receiving is from a CSX Railroad reforestation grant. The tree planting in Miller Woods will take place in October with students from nearby Parkview Elementary participating and Talltree Arboretum providing educational assistance.
Valparaiso Parks Department Horticulturist Steve Martinson said he hopes to get American beech, American linwood, shingle oak, white oak, red oak, a couple varieties of hickory trees and some sugar maples with the grant. Martinson also wants to plant smaller, flowering trees, like pagoda dogwood, fringe trees, serviceberries and redbuds to the almost four-acre area of the city's oldest park.
"Over the years we'll keep adding a few trees in and encourage volunteer trees," he said. "Sometimes the squirrels plant the right ones. We want to get it back to what it was in its day. It used to be a beechwood forest, and there are only four left. There also used to be a fair amount of linwoods."
Brugos said there isn't much the city can do for its remaining ash trees except cut them down as they die so they don't become a hazard. The real battle, besides getting funds to replace them, is to educate the public about not taking firewood from this area elsewhere and spreading the infestation.
"We've been keeping up with the removal, but we are replacing them with more that we take down," she said. "The trees are becoming more expensive because there is more of a demand with the stronger economy bringing more building plus the loss of the ash trees."