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Galesburg tree nursery helps city prepare for arrival of emerald ash borer

November 06, 2011 at 07:08 AM

Galesburg Register-Mail

GALESBURG — The new additions to the tree nursery planted Saturday morning near Hawthorne Center, with a variety of young trees on a modest plot of land, may be instrumental in keeping the city forested in the near future.

About 10 volunteers and Galesburg Tree Commission members showed up to help plant 56 trees in anticipation of the arrival of the emerald ash borer, an invasive species of insect that may threaten Galesburg’s tree population. The insect recently was discovered about 25 miles from Galesburg near Toulon.

“It’s going to get here in time, but we don’t know when,” said city arborist Gary Johnson. “But this way, with the nursery here, we will have a better process of reforesting when it does get here.”

Johnson said between 30 and 35 percent of the city’s trees are ash trees which could be affected by the insect. He said the new trees were purchased from nurseries in Peoria and Coal City.

The new trees were paid for with a $3,000 grant from Trees Forever, an environmental organization which aims to “plant and care for trees and the environment by empowering people, building community, and promoting stewardship,” according to its website. The grant is part of a regional effort to prepare for the insect’s arrival.

The emerald ash borer made its way from Asia to the United States via Detroit in shipping crates, according to Public Works Director Larry Cox, who spearheaded the project. Cox said the tree nursery is now three times larger than it was before Saturday, as some oak trees had been planted along the railroad tracks in 2006.

“I appreciate nature, trees and beauty in the community, and I thought maybe I can promote that through the commission,” Galesburg Tree Commission member Ann Pennington said, explaining why she joined the group, which she said is designed to “bridge concerns between the city and the community.” The commission has been chosen as the steering committee for the effort to keep Galesburg forested.

Pennington said that as a Spanish teacher at Galesburg High School, she sponsored the Spanish Club, which paid for and planted many of the trees near the school between Fremont and Dayton streets.

“So after that experience, I got interested in beautifying and planting trees, so I thought I could be instrumental around town,” Pennington said. “And it’s very much a learning experience for me. I’m always around Master Gardeners and arborists, so I pick up a lot of new stuff.”

Johnson also explained how this effort may help Galesburg get recognized by Tree City USA, a program through the Arbor Day Foundation that recognizes cities for tree maintenance and reforestation work. Galesburg has been recognized about 10 times by the organization, and Johnson said the city has won an award in the recent past for a planning project.

And, he said, it is this kind of project that may help Galesburg win another similar award.

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