Norfolk County’s appearance isn’t the only thing to suffer now that the emerald ash borer has made its mark on the landscape.
The county is also about to take a hit in the pocketbook now that trees are dying on public property and posing a risk to public safety.
A total of 1,300 ash trees on Norfolk land have been identified for removal so far. Plans are to remove them and plant replacements in 2016. County staff has provided a rough estimate of $638,000 to get the job done.
The wild card in the county’s calculations concerns the cutting program beyond 2016.
Norfolk has yet to take an inventory of dead ash trees in the 46 cemeteries under its care, its county parks, 47.6 kilometres of walking trails, and concession roads in Charlotteville, Houghton, Middleton, North Walsingham, South Walsingham, Townsend, Windham, and Woodhouse townships.
Conceivably, it will cost Norfolk taxpayers millions of dollars to clean up the damage.
“The risk these ash trees pose to the public is great and becomes greater with time as the trees decay,” Norfolk’s public works department says in a report to council that will be considered Tuesday. “(The trees) also will become increasingly dangerous to remove as the trees continue to decay. Unfortunately, public works road staff are unable to simply fell the trees as the tree structure is decayed and felling becomes complicated.”
As a first step, Norfolk called for tenders for the removal of 418 dead and dying ash trees Nov. 10. These trees are located within the urban areas of Courtland, Delhi, Langton, Long Point, Port Dover, Port Rowan, Simcoe and Waterford.
Seven tree-cutting services replied, with the low bid of $162,600 coming from the firm Clean Up of Simcoe. A high bid of $247,320 came from Ontario Line Clearing Services Ltd. Council is expected to award the contract at Tuesday’s meeting.
“These trees are dead or dying and present a significant risk to the public living within these areas and (who) use Norfolk County-owned lands for transportation or recreation,” county arborist Adam Chamberlin says in a report to council.
Norfolk budgeted $200,000 for the removal of ash trees in 2015. Staff has recommended that whatever is left over from the Nov. 10 tender be immediately earmarked for further tree removal. Norfolk will fund this phase of ash removal through its debenture program.
The emerald ash borer is believed to have arrived in North America in the 1990s in wooden shipping material from Asia. It was first identified as a problem in Michigan in 2002. The ash borer has since moved steadily east, destroying most species of ash tree in its path.
Tuesday’s meeting will be held in the council chamber at Governor Simcoe Square beginning at 5 p.m. The public is welcome to attend.