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Volunteers plant trees in Racine park damaged by ash borer

Posted at 11:55 AM, Apr 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-30 12:55:06-04

RACINE, Wis. (AP) -- Sue Rickert from Caledonia said she's the "green nut" recruiting her husband and coworkers for events like WeedOut! Racine's tree planting in Colonial Park.

In fact, she'd been to the same spot two years earlier when WeedOut! organized a group to pull mustard garlic.

"You couldn't see across -- it was completed wooded," Rickert said referring to what is now an open, sparsely wooded field. "I was shocked with what it looked like."

That section of Colonial Park was ravaged by the emerald ash borer, a beetle that lays eggs in the bark crevices of ash trees. When the larvae hatch, they feed on the tree under the bark, eventually killing the tree.

Denise Luke from Oak Creek, who works with Rickert, told the Journal Times that she had had to cut down the ash tree she'd planted after her daughter Ashley was born.

"It was the center of my front yard, so it was a big hole," Luke said. "Like here."

Melissa Warner and Jed Haas with WeedOut! said their organization is working closely with the Racine Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services to rebuild the habitats in parks wrecked by EAB.

"This is a reconstruction," said Warner. "This area was maybe 50% ash.".

Last fall on Make a Difference Day, volunteers planted 400 trees, including red maple, silver maple, catalpa, linden and bass wood. This time for Earth Day and Arbor Day, they planted a few birch and oak trees but mostly shrubs, such as elderberry, hazelnut, chokeberry and nannyberry, which will provide cover for wildlife.

In addition to creating a better habitat for wildlife, the trees and brush will hold soil in place, reducing runoff and the amount of nitrates and phosphates that enter the waterways. Plus there's the human element -- the satisfaction of planting trees and seeing them grow.

About a dozen volunteers made it to the recent tree planting in spite of frigid temperatures including Tom Rutkowski of Racine.

"I came out because I knew they had a time limit (before snow was supposed to come down)," said Rutkowski. "Plus I like planting trees. It's a good way to mark the time. I'll come back and see how much it's grown."