Battle against borer means removing 40 infested trees around PWHS this weekend
Told that there is no saving dozens of trees around Port Washington High School that have been ravaged by the emerald ash borer, the Port Washington-Saukville School Board cleared the way last week for the chain saws.
JR’s Tree Service of Sheboygan is expected to cut down about 40 large ash trees on the south and west sides of the high school this weekend. The company quoted a price of $7,800 for the work, Jim Froemming, the School District’s director of business services, said.
“The ash borer has hit this area harder than a lot of other areas in southeastern Wisconsin,” he told the board, which approved the tree removal.
School Board member Brian McCutcheon said, “It’s the worst I’ve seen. They are dying from the top down. There are dead branches that could fall, but it’s also an eyesore.”
The high school is near what appears to be the epicenter of the ash borer invasion in Port Washington, Jon Crain, the city’s arborist, has said. Trees in and along the Sauk Creek corridor show the most advanced signs of damage from the beetle, which has killed tens of millions of trees per state in the east-central part of the country.
The City of Port Washington has treated some of its ash trees to ward off the borer but has cut down others, most notably in Upper Lake Park.
The School District has no plans to treat its ash trees.
“Trying to treat trees to protect them from the ash borer is very expensive, and there are no guarantees,” Supt. Michael Weber said.
McCutcheon said, “A lot of these trees are so far gone it doesn’t make any sense to treat them.”
The trees that will be cut down are on a hill off Webster Street that wraps around the high school and runs along the east side of the football field. Of particular concern is that some of the trees line an access road to the school and a road leading to the main entrance of the football field, where falling branches could be a safety hazard.
Because the trees are on a hill, the stumps will be left in the ground to control erosion as recommended by the Stevens Point landscape architect firm Rettler Corp.
The district plans a more thorough landscaping study but will wait until the future of the high school is decided.
One option that is to be the subject of an upcoming referendum is to demolish about 70% of the school and rebuild on site, using portions of the wooded hills for new gyms and classrooms.
The other option, according to a facilities study conducted by Bray Architects, is to build a new high school on a yet-to-be-determined site.
Image information: PORT WASHINGTON HIGH SCHOOL is visible through trees on the south side of the school off Webster Street because of defoliation caused by the emerald ash borer. At least 40 large ash trees infested with the borer in this area are expected to be cut down this weekend. Photo by Bill Schanen IV