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Dying ash trees across Niagara region being replaced

John Morocco

The ash tree is one of the most impressive trees in a forest, park or along a city street. They also have been an essential part of the American sports scene, as the wood in most baseball bats. Now, the trees are known for their stumps.

The trees are dying in large numbers. Across Western New York and Southern Ontario, tree stumps show the work of foresters cutting the dead and dying trees down and turning them into mulch.

The problem of the emerald ash borer hit home to Buffalo residents last summer when a line of ash trees in Shoshone Park was cut down, leaving low stumps. Erie County residents using Como Park are facing the same problem, as Parks workers are cutting down the dead and dying victims of the Chinese import emerald ash borer.

County Parks Commissioner Daniel Rizzo said there were 386 ashes in Como Park and 181 in Akron Falls Park, but they are going.

"We've lost quite a few at Como Park. At Akron Park, they're just starting to get to that point now, up north. It hasn't been as many," Rizzo said. "At Como Park I would say that pretty much all the ash trees are going to die in that park."

Rizzo said it is a shame this has happened, but "we're being responsible that the parks will have trees in the future as we lose these trees."

He said there are more than 400 new trees on the way to county parks and just about all will go into Como Park, although it will be decades before they are as impressive as the ash trees that are dying.

Credit John Morocco
Another dead tree among the living.

State parks are being hit hard the same way, losing hundreds of the trees across Western New York. The community that has been especially hard hit is Niagara Falls, ONT, where thousands of ashes were planted in the 1970s along city streets because of a development boom and to replace trees lost to dutch elm disease.

Niagara Falls Operations Supervisor John Morocco said many places planted ash trees.

"A lot of cities are going to have ash, particularly in this hemisphere because they're a great tree. They're a great street tree because they were really adaptable to varying soil conditions and utilities," Morocco said. "So they seemed to fare well. They seem to have been a favorite planting back in the 1970s."

Canada's Niagara Falls has 28,000 street trees, those planted along the curb line. City checks say 3,600 are ash trees and they are dying.

The preliminary estimate is that it will cost the city $2 million to cut down those trees and replace them, with the city planning to plant three new trees for each one cut down.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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