Removal of Ash Trees in Response to Emerald Ash Borer
Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), a highly destructive insect from Asia, was detected in Morris County in 2017. The EAB is a small, metallic green, wood-boring beetle whose larvae feed on the inner bark of ash trees, ultimately disrupting the tree’s ability to transport nutrients causing the tree’s eventual decline and death. Since its discovery in Michigan in 2002, EAB has caused the deaths of hundreds of millions of ash trees in North America. Currently, EAB has been confirmed in 98 municipalities throughout New Jersey, including Morristown, and Morris, Chatham, Chester, Hanover, Randolph, Mount Olive and Washington Townships in Morris County.
Nothing has proven effective in eradicating EAB. Based on research of EAB infestations in the mid-west, experts predict a 99% mortality rate for the State’s ash trees. To prepare and manage for this threat, the Morris County Park Commission (MCPC) adopted an EAB Response Plan in 2018. As part of this plan, the MCPC will preemptively remove ash trees from high-use areas of the park system that will eventually pose a safety hazard as they die from the impacts of EAB. Taking no action will result in significantly higher costs, as well as high safety risks to over 4 million annual visitors to Park Commission facilities.
Over 12,000 ash trees have been inventoried in high-use areas throughout the Morris County Park System. Ash trees are being prioritized for removal based on proximity to known EAB infestations. Ash tree removal is scheduled to take place at Central Park of Morris County, Hedden County Park, Mennen Sports Arena, Historic Speedwell and areas along the West Morris Greenway at Hugh Force Park between December 2019 and March 2020. This is the second phase of a long-term effort to remove trees from high hazard areas in Morris County Parks.
In addition to tree removal, the MCPC is working with the NJ Department of Agriculture and United States Department of Agriculture Animal Plant Health Inspection Service to release biocontrol agents in attempts to control EAB. Several species of stingless wasps from Asia that attack EAB larvae and/or eggs are being used for this purpose. Wasps do not pose any risks to people, pets or native insects.
For more information about EAB and the MCPC’s tree removal schedule including park closures, please visit morrisparks.net.