The emerald ash borer has eaten away at trees in Platte County for at least eight years and quickly spread throughout the Kansas City area. (Associated Press)
KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -
If Kansas City homeowners have an ash tree in their yard, city officials are urging them to check it and treat it.
They say this year the emerald ash borer, an invasive beetle that attacks and kills ash trees, will spread exponentially.
The beetle has eaten away at trees in Platte County for at least eight years and quickly spread throughout the Kansas City area.
This year, city foresters are finally seeing their destruction.
"Platte County is in very bad shape right now. Most of the trees are going to be dead this year or next year," forester Kevin Lapointe said. "When you get to the point where these trees are at, it's too late. We're not going to save these trees."
There is an estimated 6 million ash trees in the metro area at risk. Of the 300 trees at Berkley Riverfront Park, half of them are dying ash.
The city has removed ash trees in the downtown and Midtown areas.
"We have no doubt it's in the Westport area, Ward Parkway and all over the metro area," Lapointe said. "People need to understand you cannot wait. Now is the time to begin looking and decide if you need to treat your trees."
For every tree lost, property values drop and environmental issues, like flooding, rise.
"We're talking about millions of gallons of water that are going to run off these parking lots," Lapointe said. "That is something we really can't handle."
The city suggests contacting a professional arborist to help find an infestation and treat it. Also, it's just as important to plant replacement trees.
The Urban Lumber Company, a new Kansas City saw mill, is transforming dead and dying trees infected by the beetle. Other area saw mills wouldn't take the ash trees or any city tree from the urban core.
Officials say city trees can be laced with metals, like nails or bullets, that can ruin their expensive blades.
"So what we look at is operating a brand saw type mill that's a lot easier and inexpensive to maintain," said Kevin Anderson, a partner in Urban Lumber Company.
Truckloads of the city's ash trees have already rolled in, and woodworker Tim O'Neill feels good knowing he is keeping them alive in another way.
"It'll be a big impact for our neighborhoods. It'll look totally different. It's going to be sad," O'Neill said. "That's a neat part of the story is to be able to put these trees, that would normally go away, and maybe keep these trees in your home as a piece of trim or table or a reminder of what happened."
O'Neill said homeowners don't need to worry about bringing home the pests if they buy wood from the Urban Lumber Company.
The infected boards are treated and placed in a kiln at 140 degrees to kill the beetle.
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