Kansas Citians likely are on the verge of seeing history repeat itself in a sad and disheartening way.
Thousands of stately ash trees that grace area streets are being infected by emerald ash borers, bringing death with them. Some trees will be cut down to slow the spread of the plague caused by the beetles. Others will be treated with chemicals, possibly keeping them alive for years, even decades. In the end, no one knows how this story will turn out.
As The Star outlined on Tuesday, the effect will be especially brutal in established neighborhoods in cities such as Prairie Village.
The long struggle ahead to save some trees and to replace those that will die brings back memories of the Dutch elm disease that struck this region in the 1950s and decades afterward. The disease reportedly killed more than 250,000 local American elms. Homeowners who had enjoyed the shade and beauty of the trees worried that their loss would have a devastating effect. That certainly happened, especially in older parts of Kansas City.
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But more positive news — which ought to give encouragement to people battling emerald ash borers in 2015 — is what occurred after that.
Many residents and area city governments planted other kinds of trees in yards and along public rights of ways. That included several varieties of hardy oaks, along with maples, black walnuts and sycamores. They have grown over time into shade-providing giants of their own.
Current efforts to save local ash trees must be in addition to replanting other kinds of trees. As experts note, it’s unwise to invest in too many of the same variety of tree, given the possibility of mass disease wiping them out.
In Prairie Village and other cities, some homeowners will invest hundreds of dollars in treatments that might save their ash trees, for now. These residents have an understandable love for the grand trees and their many benefits.
It took decades for the ash trees to grow into grand adulthood. But it regrettably may take only a few years to wipe out many of them in this community.