On Tuesday afternoon, Syracuse city arborist Stephen Harris inspected an ash tree that showed a few signs of weakness. The tree had been extensively trimmed to keep it from growing into nearby power lines and one section of the trunk shows some rot. In past years, Harris might have let the ash tree stand but concern over emerald ash borer insects could mean the tree has to come down.
Syracuse has already removed 50 weakened ash trees on city property or near roadways. Harris says the city wants to take proactive action before the insects are found in Central New York. Emerald ash borer insects have already killed tens of millions of trees and are moving across New York State.
"It will probably be the most destructive pest to hit North America in some time and New York has the highest density of ash trees," said Harris.
Emerald Ash Borers are typically in communities for four to ten years before their damage is discovered. Harris says Syracuse will gradually remove high risk trees - and preserve the ones they can.
"Our goal is to manage our ash population on our schedule - not the bugs. And the way to do that is remove the trees in the worst condition first," said Harris.
For many Syracuse neighbors it has been difficult to watch the city cut down healthy looking trees right outside their homes.
Brittany Lyles loves the ash tree canopy that covers her grandmother's street the near Syracuse University. She's worried the city's tree removal plan will take away the neighborhood's best feature.
"It takes away from property values. some people might want to live here just because the trees protect from the sun - so it's all kinds of things," said Lyles. "There's a difference between being ahead of it and doing a little too much."
Harris says he hopes the city will only have to remove about two hundred and fifty of the two thousand ash trees on city property or ones that border city streets.