- DAVID NICKLE
Jun 20, 2011 – 4:14 PM
City embarking on massive tree removal project
Spread of emerald ash borer devastating ash trees in Scarborough, North York and Etobicoke
Residents on streets lined with ash trees could be seeing a lot more sun in future summers – and those who have the trees on their property could be dealing with the cost of removing the trees, as the emerald ash borer beetle spreads across the city.
The city will be embarking on a massive project to remove trees infected with the emerald ash borer beetle's larvae. This week, the city is holding public information sessions across the city to educate homeowners about the implications of the beetle, and its attack on an entire species of trees in Toronto.
The insect, which came to Canada from Asia, lays larva that feed beneath the bark of ash trees. The beetle destroys the tree's ability to transmit water and nutrients to its branches, and was first found in Toronto in 2007.
By 2011, the infestation has spread to trees in Scarborough, North York and Etobicoke – so far leaving downtown Toronto untouched.
In the other areas, the city has budgeted $68 million to remove about 80,000 infected trees on city land. But only about 40 per cent of ash trees are on public property. The rest are on private property – meaning that homeowners will have to foot the bill for tree removal.
In total, Toronto has 860,000 ash trees.
Taking down a tree costs the city $751. City officials in a briefing Monday, June 20, afternoon wouldn't say how much more it would cost homeowners to hire a contractor to remove their trees. But the city will help homeowners in terms of providing information about options available to them.
If a tree is still relatively healthy, homeowners can use a naturally-occurring pesticide from the Neem tree marketed as TreeAzine. But if the tree is further gone, then the only option is tree removal.
City officials will be going to hard-hit neighbourhoods over the next week to talk to residents about what their options are.
Beth McKewen, Toronto's arborist, said she expected that homeowners would be frustrated.
"I think this is a tragic situation," she said. "People will be frustrated. We will try to assist them in dealing with their frustration."
Ward 43 Scarborough East Councillor Paul Ainslie said he expected a lot of that frustration to come out at the first public meeting, to be held in Guildwood Monday night.
"I think people are going to be very frustrated," he said.
"I've already heard from a lot of people that are having seven or eight mature trees on their property, and there's nothing to do. My staff are telling people that the trees will be dead by 2015. I've got arborists who've said they could last until 2030."
Here are the details of the public meetings to take place this week and next: Monday, June 20, 7 to 9 p.m. at Sir Wilfred Laurier Collegiate, 145 Guildwood Parkway; Tuesday, June 21, 7 to 9 p.m. at McGregor Park Community Centre. 2231 Lawrence Ave. E.; Monday, June 27, 7 to 9 p.m. at Port Union Community Centre, 5450 Lawrence Ave. E.