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Tree damage to cost East Gwillimbury more than $500K
Jan. 22, 2015
By Simon Martin

The emerald ash borer is one expensive pest, as the so-called ash crash eats its way through East Gwillimbury.

By now, most people know the invasive insect is killing ash trees across Ontario. East Gwillimbury manager of parks Frank Mazzotta brought the pest to council chambers Monday in the form of a tree stump to show the damage it does.

While ash trees along the street might look good now, they are going to bite the dust in the near future at an estimated cost of $553,636 to the town over five years.

That doesn’t even include the cost of ash trees on private property.

“It’s a sad day,” Mayor Virginia Hackson said.

“The ash trees are getting absolutely decimated.”

In 2013, Davey Resource Group conducted an inventory of public park and streetscape trees in East Gwillimbury.

Among the 7,485 trees inventoried, 528 were ash trees, comprising 7.1 per cent of the inventoried population.

Councillor Tara Roy-DiClemente said the town is relatively lucky considering some municipalities have ash trees making up 25 per cent of their tree canopy.

In comparison, the City of Toronto estimates most of its 860,000 ash trees or 8 per cent of its tree population, will be affected, with most killed by 2017. Death usually occurs within two to three years of infestation.

The city has spent more than $3 million on injections for its ash trees, but there is no guarantee the medicine will be effective.

East Gwillimbury council endorsed a strategy to remove and replace trees as well as treat significant trees. The estimated cost of the program in 2015 would be just more than $80,000 with 51 trees removed and 145 treated. The numbers would be similar in 2016 with 47 trees removed and 107 treated.

Under the strategy, there would be a significant cost increase in 2017 and 2018 with close to 200 trees being removed each year. The program would cost $213,000 in 2017 and $181,000 in 2018.

There is little choice for the municipality as a glut of dead trees in public areas present safety concerns. “It is a liability issue,” Roy-DiClemente said.

While the solution is expensive and will hurt the esthetics of certain streets, Hackson said the town is going to replant. “It is the right thing to do and we hope that it will make a difference.”