Elkhart seeks better uses for ravaged Ash trees

Ash trees are dropping like flies thanks to the exotic beetle known as the Emerald Ash Borer.

Officials in Elkhart are trying to make the best of the bad situation.

“That’s kind of the, that’s one of the silver linings I’ve been pursuing is trying to get a lot of this urban wood that goes to wood chippers, or we have fire wood lots, into better uses,” said Elkhart City Forester Daniel Popovich Coy.

The Ash Borer’s damage is generally confined to the bark of the tree. Some are bound and determined to make sure that Elkhart’s unharmed wood doesn’t go to waste.

“Matt and I refer to the work we do here as tree-cyling, of taking trees that have to come down of this case here of Emerald Ash Borer, being able to recycle or tree-cycle it to be able to put it to good use in this case here, into slab wood furniture,” said Tree-cycler Steve Thomas.

Thomas and his son Matt were on hand to pick up the pieces today as an 80 foot Ash tree was taken down at Tipton and Taylor.

“This is about four by eight feet, so it’s too large for most small portable mills, but Matt has a slabbing mill that he can slab up to five feet wide, he’ll turn this into some slab wood dining tables,” said Thomas.

More than 100 Ash trees were removed from Island and McNaughton Parks alone. The lumber is beginning to pile up near the Elkhart Environmental Center.

“The big companies don't want it, it’s hard to come by and grab a log here and grab a log there, and make some money,” said Popovich Coy. “You run into foreign objects, nails and the like, but the local guys who don't need a truck load at a time…they can use it just fine.”

The city is also planning to lead by example. An observation deck will be built at the Elkhart Environmental Center using lumber from Ash trees that were removed from Island Park.

“We have seen a lot of loss of our trees, so we're going to make the best use possible that we can of them, and put it in the hands of those who like to create beautiful works,” said Ericka Popovich with the Elkhart Environmental Center.

The city plans to show off the new observation deck and some examples of Ash furniture at its Arbor Day celebration on April 27th from 1:00 p.m. until 3:00 p.m.

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