Ash tree removal: ask an expert

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By Kathlean Wolf
Northside News

On Aug. 18 I interviewed Jesse Barre, whose business specializes in tree trimming and removal. His main message? Make a plan now for how you’re going to deal with your ash tree.

Q: What factors affect the cost of a tree removal and what’s a ballpark estimate you might quote to a homeowner?

A: The yard is a big factor. A tree that can be allowed to fall will take less work than one that overhangs a house or fence. Stump-grinding is an added cost and homeowners can save money by keeping the wood. Tree removal generally costs between $700 and $2,500.

Q: Are trees affected by emerald ash borer different than trees that die of other causes? How does that affect the cost of removal?

A: The ash borer prefers the tenderest cambium, so it attacks the newest branches. That means it works its way down from the top. Once the top of the tree dies, it starts to rot after a year or two. Climbing a tree to remove it is the easiest and least expensive way to remove it, but once the top has begun to rot, it’s unsafe to climb. If a bucket truck is required, it can increase the cost by several thousand dollars.

Q: Can neighbors get group discounts?

A: Live trees that can be removed by climbers take the same amount of time no matter how many are going to be removed and this is still the least expensive way to have trees removed. Tree removal companies that specialize in using heavy equipment like bucket trucks may offer a discount, but they have higher overhead and are generally more expensive.

Q: The city has been racing to take down all the ash trees on terraces and in parks before they start falling down dead. Are private arborists like you also getting more calls than you have time for? Do you think you will be able to keep up as the EAB trees start to die?

A: We’re getting more calls about ash and more of them are take-downs instead of treatment. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Some local companies are investing in new equipment to handle the anticipated surge in ash removal.

Q: What warning signs should Northsiders be aware of that their tree is in serious trouble?

A: When trees start sending out suckers (small green branches near the bottom of the trunk), it’s a sign they’re getting desperate. Even small branches make a lot of noise when they fall. As the bigger branches start to fall, people will get scared when a big one lands on their deck. In other words, the tree isn’t going to just fall over on the house; it will give warning signs.

Q: What’s the most important thing Northside property owners need to know about their ash trees?

A: You need to develop a plan to take your ash tree down. It could be next week, it could be next year, but you need a plan. Pesticide injections are 90 percent effective, but 90 percent over 10 years will still result in enough damage that the tree will die. You could plan to treat the tree for the next four years while you save up to have it removed, but you need to have a plan.