Officials with the city’s forestry section say the massive plan to remove 23,000 dead and dying ash trees on city property over 10 years is more than one-third completed.

A total of 8,800 trees afflicted by the emerald ash borer have so far been taken down across Hamilton. Those trees include ones on the city road allowance of private residences as well as other city-owned locations such as parks and city-owned golf courses.

Forestry manager Steve Barnhart said the program had been stepped up in recent months because the insect is killing trees at a faster rate than had been earlier predicted.

That city has been paying a contractor about $800,000 per year as part of removal effort. Trees are replaced with a variety of alternative species with the hope of creating a far more diversified urban canopy for the future.

“We are on track with the program knowing we have had to accelerate our efforts a bit to deal with the peak decline that is occurring now,” said Barnhart.

More than 200 trees in the city are part of a pesticide injection program aimed at saving them because they are seen to be important in the urban landscape, he said.

The contractor, Davey Tree Expert Company, is responsible for removing the tree debris from the site, Barnhart said. The costs of removal or any revenue from firewood or other sales of the wood is left up to the contractor as per the terms of the contract.

Chris Deathe, manager of the Davey Tree Expert Company, said most of the wood from the trees is put through a chipper and refined to turn into mulch. Wood from large logs is sometimes made into firewood or pallets.

Barnhart said the city’s main interest in the wood is that it is safely removed. Usually a chipper at the site is used and large logs are taken away using a truck.

Deathe said his company doesn’t have the time or resources to cut up ash trees for homeowners for firewood. He notes the trees belong to the city.

Residents are required to stay away from tree removal work while it is being completed, he said.