Illinois Outdoors at PrairiestateOutdoors.com
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Jeff Lampe
Jeff Lampe

Jeff Lampe has been outdoor writer at the Journal Star in Peoria for 12 duck seasons. He lives in Elmwood with his wife Monica, sons Henry, Victor and Walter, and Llewellin setter Hawkeye. A native of Buffalo, N.Y., he is an avid fan of the Bills and still has mental scars from four consecutive Super Bowl losses. Outside of hunting and fishing, Lampe's main passion in Illinois was Class A boys basketball (which sadly no longer exists). Former publisher of the Class A Weekly newsletter, Lampe is a co-author of "100 Years of Madness" and "Classical Madness," both books focusing on prep basketball in Illinois.

Illinois Outdoors
 

Scattershooting

A Web log by Jeff Lampe of the Journal Star

Ash tree worrying me

June 27, 2008 at 10:54 AM

As a kid growing up in Buffalo, N.Y., I can still remember seeing city streets that seemed more like tunnels. Huge elm trees lined some streets, creating a wonderful canopy. But in my short lifetime, nearly all those elms succumbed to disease. What’s left in Buffalo is a misguided morass of stunted ornamental cherry trees, a few maples and far too streets without towering trees.

That’s what has me fretting about the purple ash that’s growing so nicely in front of my home here in Elmwood, where I’m told disease also did a number on plenty of old elms.

Two years ago, the city planted this ash to replace a worthless hybrid poplar. And the tree has done very well, growing nicely and promising to provide shade for years to come. That is, if no emerald ash borers arrive. And I have no faith in that happening. Particularly not after talking with gunsmith Dave Prater for a story this Sunday.

Prater lives outside Lewistown (near Dickson Mounds Museum) in Fulton County and has an affinity for trees. He transplants oaks and maples all over his property and keeps a close watch on the other trees in his forest. So when he notices several ash trees dying, I worry. Prater said he’s seen three or four big ashes dying in his woods. He plans to go back and look for signs of the ash borer, that nasty little invasive bug.

Illinois Outdoors

That makes me wonder: how many other folks out there are seeing ash trees dying? Supposedly there have been no reports south of LaSalle County in Illinois. But I wonder if that’s not accurate. I wonder how far the ash borer has spread already. And I worry about that vibrant tree in front of my house. In the evenings when I tote the baby around inside, hoping he’ll fall asleep, I spend a lot of time looking out the windows at that tree. I imagine how big it will be when little Walter is 10, 20 and even my age. Those are enjoyable thoughts.

Planting a tree is always an investment in future generations (except for those worthless hybrid poplars, which grow fast and then create problems for future generations). But maybe it’s time for me to get another tree started out by the street.

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