Recently I had the opportunity to walk The Vineyard Golf Course with Great Parks’ landscape manager Jerry Frankenhoff and Woodland Mound’s assistant park manager Jason Rahe. Jerry made our mission clear before we even stepped foot on the first hole: we were to assess each one of the treated ash trees on the course – approximately 150 trees in all.
Our group was to determine the fate of the trees by rating their overall health and impact on the golf course and environment. We would then use that rating to decide which of the trees would stay on a treatment cycle against the emerald ash borer (EAB) infestation. The park district has lost thousands of ash trees to the infestation since it began seven years ago, and this group of ash trees is being chemically treated in hopes that one day the EAB population diminishes and the trees can survive on their own.
Jerry framed up the situation succinctly – the value of these ash trees (or any tree) exceeds the cost of treating them. They provide oxygen, habitat for wildlife, erosion control, wind breaks, shade for cooling and, in some cases, protection for golfers. After considering all that the trees provide, there were only a few treated ash trees that didn’t make the cut, mainly due to structural flaws or the negative impact they were having in heavily wooded zones.
While making judgment calls and checking off treatment identification tag numbers, we came across ash trees that had put on so much recent growth that they seemed to swallow the tags! The trees provided living proof of the validity of the treatment program. After looking at dozens of ash trees, we came upon the very first ash tree to receive treatment in the parks. That simple, red, diamond-shaped tag with the number 1 carries an important message for me – it signifies the responsibility that we all bear in caring for one of our greatest environmental assets.
Carolyn Pottschmidt, District Operations Superintendent