In the coming months, county road crews will begin clearing 200 ash trees along county-owned roads in Saugerties.
That’s the number of trees found to be infected with the emerald ash borer beetle, according to Amanda LaValle, director of the Ulster County Department of the Environment.
Recently LaValle and Aaron Bennett, deputy coordinator for the county Department of the Environment, made a presentation to county legislators explaining that ash trees along 30 to 40 miles of county road are infected with the beetles, which kill ash trees.
Adult beetles lay their eggs in ash trees and as the egg turns into a larva, it tunnels under the bark of the trees and gets its nourishment from the tree, eventually killing it.
LaValle said her department’s survey of the infestation was conducted through the windshield of a car traveling along county roads, so the numbers are just estimates. Some of the county roads where infested trees have been found in Saugerties include Old Kings Highway and Blue Mountain Road.
“We’re really seeing a impact from the EAB in Saugerties,” LaValle said.
Town Highway Department Superintendent Doug Myer agreed, and said he had to put an extra $5,000 into this year’s operating budget to remove infected ash trees along town roads. “And you’ll see that dollar amount go up and up, until all the ash trees are gone, and then that number will go down,” Myer said.
George Terpening, supervisor of the village’s parks department, just shakes his head when asked about the beetles. He points with some pride to two ash trees in Seamon Park that were treated with a chemical that kills the beetle and lets the tree survive. The chemical costs about $400 per tree and lasts for two years, making it not cost-effective for the vast majority of ash trees. Terpening said he is unsure if he will do a second dose of the chemical warfare next year, saying it looks like all the ash trees are doomed. No other ash trees remain on village-owned property, which includes the strip of land between sidewalks and streets.
First entering the U.S. in Michigan over a decade ago, the beetle has wiped out huge swaths of ash trees in a number of states, leaving experts to compare the devastation to that done to America’s elm trees by Dutch Elm Disease.