After more than a decade battling the emerald ash borer, Arlington Heights plans to complete most of its tree removals and replacements this year, officials said.
Before the invasive bug started attacking ash trees throughout town, the village had some 13,000 of the trees. Today, about 3,000 are left -- most that have been treated with a chemical to prolong their lives, and around 800 that haven't, said Dru Sabatello, Arlington Heights' village forester.
Of the untreated trees, Sabatello predicts 400 or so to be taken down this year. The others are doing better than expected and still showing signs of life, he said.
"We will only take an ash tree down if it's showing symptoms or past 50 percent dead," Sabatello said. "If it looks viable, we'll let them stand."
At the end of this year, village officials expect $8 million will have been spent to remove, replace and treat trees since 2006. The original budget estimate was $11.2 million, but costs were lower because of good bid prices for tree removals and village public works crews doing more of the removals in-house, according to Tom Kuehne, the village's finance director.
Kuehne said costs also went down when crews began restoring sites through hydroseeding, a planting process in which seed is combined with water and other additives and sprayed onto the ground.
The village borrowed the $8 million through a bond sale.
Included in the total cost was the village's end of a 50/50 cost-sharing program to treat parkway trees. Residents in the Save Our Ash Coalition, which included representatives of five subdivisions, successfully lobbied the village board to get the program extended in 2014.
Village officials discontinued the program last year, saying it wasn't meant to keep the ash trees alive forever but instead slow the rate at which the trees had to be taken down.
As old ash trees have been chopped down and turned into wood chips, more than 11,500 new trees have been planted throughout town. Another 400 -- starting in the form of 2½-inch calipers from the nursery -- will go in the ground this year, Sabatello said.
The new trees include more than 40 species, including oak, elm, ginkgo, hornbeam and London plane-tree.
In the 1970s and 1980s, entire subdivisions on the north and south sides of Arlington Heights were developed and parkways lined with only ash trees.
"What we learned is obviously, we need to show diversity," Sabatello said.