Plans are moving forward to remove thousands of Omaha’s ash trees that have been damaged by infestation.
An inventory by the city forestry division found an estimated 14,569 ash trees that have been damaged by the emerald ash borer, according to a statement Wednesday from the Mayor’s Office. The first signs of the infestation in Omaha were reported in June 2016 at Pulaski Park near 40th and G Streets.
“Our first priority is to save trees, not cut them down,” said Parks Director Matt Kalcevich. “We have unfortunately reached the point where treatment is not an effective strategy. The threat of personal injury and property damage is too significant to delay this work any longer.”
The city estimates said that 6,119 ash trees have already been removed from public property. The Omaha City Council has approved contracts with private companies to remove an additional 1,382 trees.
Great Plains Tree Care has contracted to remove 548 ash trees from six public parks: Adams, Bryan, Crosskey Village, Hitchcock, Seymour Smith and Willow Wood. The cost is $148,718.
The council also approved $185,700 to be paid to Atrium Tree Service to remove 834 ash trees on city rights of way. The funding is included in the annual capital improvement plan.
The city and Keep Omaha Beautiful have programs to plant new trees; those programs will continue for several years. So far, 3,422 trees have been planted in parks and along trails through the Trees for Omaha program.