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Posted Tuesday, November 20th, 2018

Safety Project will Start in Southeast — Long Hill and Morris Township

Morris County is initiating a long-term tree removal program along county roads in all 39 county municipalities to deal with the arrival of the Emerald Ash Borer, a small but deadly insect that infects and destroys most ash trees in its path.

Close-up of an Emerald Ash BorerFor the safety of drivers, cyclists and pedestrians, and also to prevent damage to power lines and adjacent properties, Morris County will undertake a long-term effort to take down ash trees along county rights-of-ways, starting in Southeast Morris County.

The first round of cutting is expected to start in Morris Township and Long Hill in January, with bids pending for the tree removal work.

The Morris County Park Commission also is poised to respond to the issue. It has an EAB plan in place and is expected to start tree removal along sections of Patriot’s Path, Frelinghuysen Arboretum, and Fosterfields Living Historical Farm, all in Morris Township, in December.

The Commission also is targeting some trees at the Mennen Sports Arena and Historic Speedwell, and will consider a 2019 tree removal program at the Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center in Chatham Township, where major infestation was confirmed this month.

Morris County government already has notified officials in Long Hill and Morris Township of the county tree removal project and more specifically will notify adjacent property owners along the county rights of way once plans for removal are finalized.

Freeholders Initiate Ash Tree Removal Project Along County Roads to Deal with Tree-Killing Insect

Infected ash tree looms high over power lines on Sussex Turnpike in Morris Township

The Morris County Shade Tree Division is doing an inventory of ash trees along county rights of way and so far has identified and marked some 3,000 trees in the southeast quadrant of the county. It is estimated the total number of ash trees along all county rights of way likely will total more than 10,000 when the inventory is completed countywide.

That total does not include infected ash trees along municipal rights of ways.

An allocation of $600,000 has been approved by the Board of Freeholders for the first round of tree removal in Long Hill and Morris Township.

“This is a painfully necessary project,’’ said Freeholder Deborah Smith. “We are in the path of the EAB infestation and there is no escaping it. Removing these trees has to be done for safety reasons, and we have to act now to be ahead on this issue.’’

It would be very costly, with limited possibility of effectiveness, to try to save the ash trees.  The Park Commission has chosen to attempt to save a select number of ash trees, especially at its arboretums.

The Emerald Ash Borer has killed millions of ash trees in North America after being first discovered in North America in 2002 in Michigan and Ontario, and has since made its deadly way to Morris County.

A few facts about the EAB infestation:

  • Some 100 million ash trees have been killed in the U.S. and hundreds of millions are infected;
  • Most of the estimated 7.5 billion ash trees in the U.S., are likely to die;
  • There is no practical way to prevent EAB from spreading to virgin woods;
  • Almost all untreated ash trees die within five years;
  • Infected ash trees become brittle and difficult-to-remove;
  • There are several treatment options, but they are costly, requiring annual treatment for a decade, and not guaranteed to work

Freeholder Smith noted that the county asked the state and federal government for financial assistance to deal with EAB issue but was told there are no financial assistance programs in place.

Freeholders Initiate Ash Tree Removal Project Along County Roads to Deal with Tree-Killing Insect

Morris County tree ravaged by the Emerald Ash Borer

The county is preparing to go out to bid next month for the first phase of ash tree removal in Long Hill and Morris Township. In locations where tree removal occurs, adjacent to residential or developed properties, the stumps will be ground below grade and the area top soiled and seeded. In other areas, trees will be cut flush with the ground.

The contractor awarded the county government project will be required to provide a minimum of five days advance notice, with a door hang tag and/or a mailing, to each adjacent property owner.

There are no plans to re-plant trees in the rights of ways but to keep those areas clear of vegetation to prevent future safety issues, and also to reduce the number of downed power lines during future storms.

The Park Commission’s EAB response plan has a primary goal of removing ash trees from high use areas of the park system before they begin to decline and become a safety hazard. Tree removals will be prioritized using two criteria: the level of risk to people, infrastructure and utilities, and proximity to known EAB infestations.

The MCPC may choose to utilize trunk injections of insecticides to attempt to protect select ash trees. Treatments will focus on trees in the park system’s historic and horticultural facilities, but may also include trees in general purpose parks that have major impacts on shade, aesthetic, or environmental aspects of the site.

View the Park Commission plan at:

For more information on the Emerald Ash Borer, visit: