Extensive Evart reforestation effort planned

EVART — The notorious Emerald Ash Borer has done a number on the City of Evart, and most residents may not even know it.

Following a pattern of movement throughout the state, the Ash Borer — despite its colorful, even elegant name — has erased objects of natural color and beauty from the landscape, and virtually laid waste to one of the city’s pearls — Riverside Park West.

More than 125 trees have been removed from the park’s lush landscape, leaving it a shadow of its former self.

Almost all of the removals were ash trees — stately, long-lived ash trees; long-lived until the Borer beetle arrived.

“The Emerald Ash Borer has done what it does, and done it too well,” reported Barb Nostrant, administrative assistant with the DPW, and ramrod of the reforestation project.

The beetles settled under the bark, laid eggs, and the resultant larvae ate through the wood creating “galleries” of tunnels.

These tunnels effectively girdle the trees and drain them of a life source.

There is little to do for the “victim” once the borer has made its home, and before the damage is really noticed.

The trees died — a sure and promised death.

More than 125 trees gone ... and more to be removed.

The pain isn’t over with just yet.

“We started removing trees in May of 2011,” noted Nostrant. “It wasn’t just an esthetic issue. The trees became a danger once they died.

“It doesn’t take long for trees to die once they’ve been infested.”

Now, a dedicated crew from the city’s Department of Public Works is preparing to fight back.

There’s not a lot they can do to actually heal the hurt, but they can doctor the damage.

“I had driven through Riverside Park with Buck Vallad, the DPW director, when I started this job in Evart,” explained Nostrant.

“It was such a wonderful, wooded, and quiet place here in town.

“At the time, we were carrying out a tree survey for the Tree City U.S.A. report.

“But comparing the park in August, to the park we have today is sad. It is very bare, and going to get even more so.

“It is devastating to see how many trees we have had to remove.

“Now it’s time to act — to fight back.”

The DPW crew especially realize how important park spaces are to the people of any community.

Riverside West is even more important in the larger recreational scheme of things since it is not only the municipal park but also the city’s campground, and home to many area events such as the Evart Car Show, and the annual Independence Day Party in the Park.

A picnic in the park is the thing to do on a hot summer’s day alongside the mighty Muskegon.

“This park is a well-loved part of the city’s landscape, and now, virtually overnight, the park that people knew has disappeared,” continued Nostrant.

“We have to do something.”

And the “something” is a reforestation effort that gets the entire community involved.

With departmental purse-strings pulled tight, the DPW team designed a program that would not only tap into municipal funds, but would also allow for participation by any group, club, fraternity, organization, family, or individual in the community to plant a tree ... or two ... or 10.

“Simply because of the vast number of tree removals involved, we need help in replacing the trees,” said Nostrant.

“This project isn’t only limited to Riverside Park. We have needed to remove a lot of trees throughout the residential neighborhoods as well — ash and maples.

“We want to plant a tree every time we remove a tree.

“The problem at the park is the sheer number. That’s why this will be the focus of the reforestation program from the start.”

The planning team has been approaching civic groups with requests to get involved.

One of their first program presentations was to the Evart Lions Club which responded with a pledge for funding to the tune of six trees each year for three years — or $750 per year for a three-year period. (Each tree, well matured and stable, will cost the Evart DPW $125.)

“We were very pleased, and very thankful,” said Nostrant.

“This was very encouraging.

“We’re hoping other groups around town will be as excited as the Lions. We hope businesses and organizations will get on board and help renovate a corner of the city that has been a real focus of family fun for many, many years.

“Anyone can help out.

“Not everyone needs to spend as much as the next person or group.

“Every little bit will help ... tremendously.”

The plan is to replace the ash trees with hardy hardwoods that can manage the damp soil that makes up Riverside Park, and will be resistant to disease.

“We are researching varieties, but expect to be planting a type of maple,” noted Nostrant.

“We’re not going to just throw in anything. We are going to make sure these trees are planted well, cared for, and will last for many, many years to come.

“This, really, is part of the heritage and inheritance of the people of Evart.

“We hope to make sure everyone has a chance to join in making this corner of the city as beautiful in years to come as it has been for the many years folks have been enjoying it until now.”

For more information, or to make a donation, area residents can contact Nostrant at 734-2101.