“Maple Grove Volunteers Tally Trees to Fight Ash Borer”

by Alex Gaterud

A briefer feature/service piece about the Maple Grove city government’s attempts to stop the spread of the emerald ash borer. Published online via Maple Grove Magazine, May 3, 2013.

Maple Grove Volunteers Tally Trees to Fight Ash Borer

The Maple Grove tree inventory program is gathering information that will help dilute the impact of the emerald ash borer’s arrival.

Maple Grove, as the name would imply, is a well-forested town. Drivers passing by on Interstate 94 can’t see very far beyond the highway due to the impressive volume of trees our city boasts, and bikers and hikers on the Medicine Lake Regional Trail often feel like they’ve disappeared into the countryside.

But Maple Grove may soon be the latest city in Minnesota to change—sometimes radically—as a result of the rapacious spread of the emerald ash borer (EAB), an invasive beetle that has killed tens of millions of ash trees across the United States. That’s why the City of Maple Grove is calling for volunteers to help inventory the trees in town and prevent as much damage as possible.

Though the bug hasn’t appeared in Maple Grove yet, parts of Hennepin County have started to see the effects of its spread. “The bug is on our doorstep,” says Frank Kampel, the head of the tree inventory program. “We’re trying to get an idea of what our economic and environmental impact is going to be once that bug enters the city.”

Once the EAB infests a tree, there’s little that can be done to save it. The beetles reproduce so rapidly—and consume a tree so voraciously—that budgets quickly become swamped. “There are insecticides that can be used,” Kampel says, “but those have to be either injected into the tree or spread on the ground. They typically have to be done yearly, or every other year, for the entire life of the tree. So that becomes very costly, and unfortunately the best approach right now is to remove the tree and replant.”

“We’ve learned quite a bit from other cities,” Kampel says. “The main thing is: We need to start early and not delay. Once the bug starts affecting the trees, the trees die and become hazardous very quickly, and many cities have become overwhelmed with the number of dead trees they have,” he says. “So that’s why we need to be proactive and not reactive.”

Volunteers submit an application and background check form, and once they’re approved, they attend one training session. After that, a few hours of work a week from dedicated volunteers can help the program reach its goals. “It could be this year, it could be next year,” Kampel says. “If we get the volunteers we’re looking for, we can probably get it done this year.”

“We’re not just limiting our inventory to ash trees; we’re trying to get all of them because there are other bugs coming that will affect other trees,” Kampel says. Maple Grove has already seen that cycle once: Kampel says many of the city’s ash trees were planted to replace those killed by dutch elm disease. “Once these ash trees die, the whole urban landscape could be affected dramatically.”

The good news, Kampel says, is that residents have responded well to the program. “We’ve gotten quite a few volunteers,” he says. “Word is getting out there, but we just need volunteers. We’re covering the entire city, and that covers a lot of area.”

And the city’s plans to replant trees will involve much more environmental diversity going forward, Kampel says. “We don’t want to plant just one species. We don’t want to plant all maples or lindens. We will diversify the trees planted so when another pest or disease comes through, all trees will not die.”

“People should get involved because the bug will directly affect their immediate environment,” he says. “Once the bug appears and starts killing trees, their neighborhoods will appear quite differently. They will be a lot barer than what they look like now.”

Want to volunteer to inventory the city’s trees? Contact Frank Kampel at 763-494-6365 or by emailing fkampel@maplegrovemn.gov. Volunteers don’t need to be residents of Maple Grove and can request certain neighborhoods. Volunteers work in teams of three, so get your friends and family involved!

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