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Kansas City set to remove 110 ash trees from Platte County

Platte County will soon be missing some ash trees.

The Forestry Division of Kansas City Parks and Recreation said about 110 ash trees in Platte County will come down, with work starting this month. The removal, which will only be of public trees on Kansas City property or rights-of-way, is an attempt by the city to limit potential financial and environmental damage from emerald ash borer beetles that have been found in the area.

According to city forester Kevin Lapointe, the beetles can significantly damage or destroy ash trees through their larvae after adult beetles lay eggs in the trees. The larvae feed under the bark and can disrupt the tree’s ability to transport water and nutrients.

The beetle was found in Platte County in 2012, Lapointe said.

“Financially and environmentally this beetle has proven to be devastating to other cities in the country and it will be to this area if its unchecked and we do nothing about it,” Lapointe said.

The city isn’t trying to stop the beetle, Lapointe said but is instead trying to slow its spread and limit its damage to trees in the area.

To help in this effort, after the beetle was discovered in the area the city launched the KC Parks Forestry Division’s Emerald Ash Borer Management Program. The city assessed all public ash trees to decide which trees should be treated in the hope of preserving them and which ones were not going to be treated, either because they were too big, too small or had some other issue.

The city used some of the trees that won’t be treated to help slow the ash borer’s spread. They were turned into trap trees with their bark stripped away to attract the beetles. The city will remove the trap trees before the adult beetles can emerge in May and spread the infestation. This process also helps the city monitor the beetles’ locations.

In Platte County, half of the trees that weren’t treated became trap trees, and the other half were slated to became trap trees next year. But officials had to change the plan.

“As time has gone and we’ve spent more time in Platte County since it was found last year we’ve realized how heavy the infestation is in Platte County and we are removing all the trees in Platte County that we did not treat at this time,” Lapointe said. “So the other 50 percent of the trees that we were going to stress this next spring we are moving now.”

The city plans to replace the trees it removes with a different species of tree.

“The population levels of the beetle are so high in Platte County right now that if we leave those trees there that have not been treated, they are more than likely infested and when the beetles fly again in May of this next spring in 2014, we’ll be releasing hundreds of these beetles to re-infect other trees in the area,” Lapointe said.

Pat Clark, parks superintendent for Platte County Parks and Recreation, said the county’s trees haven’t been impacted as significantly by the beetle because the county doesn’t own as many ash trees as the city does, and county parks are not in the areas where the beetle is believed to be in the highest densities.

“We have smaller parks and some areas that we don’t have too many ash trees in, and as of right now we haven’t found any of the insects on our trees or the symptoms of it,” Clark said.

The city plans to remove a total of about 700 ash trees throughout Platte, Clay and Jackson counties in its current effort. The largest portion of those trees are in Jackson county, due to the county’s size.