he Linn County Conservation Board approved removal of 100 large ash trees along Big Bluestem Drive within Wanatee Park due to infestation of the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB). “Emerald ash borer was discovered in Linn County in 2015,” said Dana Kellogg, Natural Resource Manager for Linn County Conservation. “In recent years, the borers infected trees in our public areas and many trees now are in severe decline or dying. Dead ash trees along roads or near public amenities would additionally pose a significant threat to public safety if not removed,” said Kellogg.
EAB is a small, metallic-green invasive wood-boring beetle native to east Asia that attacks ash trees. According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, EAB was first discovered in North America in Michigan in 2002 and spread to Iowa in 2010. Ash trees provided a tree canopy along the Wanatee Park entrance road when planted in the 1960’s, prior to any knowledge of EAB. Once EAB was discovered in Iowa, Linn County Conservation staff planted a variety of trees on the back slopes near the existing ash trees knowing the devastating effects from these pests could occur in the future.
Removing the ash trees vs. insecticide treatment alternatives for each tree is the most cost-effective solution and provides the safest, long-term environmental impact within the park. “For several years now, any new tree planting efforts within our system involves a variety of species, which improves the biodiversity of our areas and makes the trees more resistant to disease and pest infestations.” The Linn County Conservation Board awarded the contract to Bill Miller Logging, who submitted the low bid of $20,000. The contractor is prepared to start next week.
To ensure safety, Big Bluestem Drive within Wanatee Park just off the main entrance will be closed during the day November 14 –16. Those still wishing to access the park may be able to enter the vacant campground near the entrance (camping is closed for the season). Limited park access is available along 31st Street Drive on the west side of the park, or the access on Lakeside Road on the southwest side of the park near woodland areas.