Dutch Elm Disease Overtaking Williston | VideoEvan Kruegel | 6/29/2012
"Back in 1981, we saw the first diagnosed case of Dutch Elm Disease here, and it spread out from here doown 1st Ave and we could see the progression around the neighborhood but now it`s all over town. North south east west," said City Forester Bruce Johnson.
The disease is spread either through intertwined root systems or by bark beetles who move from tree to tree. The elm tree plugs up its interior tissue to prevent the fungus from traveling higher, but all that does is prevent water and nutrients from reaching the top of the tree
"You can see yellowing on the upper crown of the branches, typically it starts at the top of the tree on one branch and then will kill that branch and move from branch to branch and next thing you know you`ve got a totally dead tree," said Johnson.
The Parks Department has applied for a grant through the Forest Service to plant new trees. If accepted, the grant will cover half the cost of the replacement trees, but it still won`t be cheap.
"To replace the trees that we`ve lost we will be adding some different species and varieties of trees so that its not strictly elm trees. It`s going to cost about $8,200 for plant materials alone," said Williston Park District Recreation Coordinator Mike Amundson.
While many of the trees are already dead, others appear to be completely healthy.
"I`ve seen some trees that are totally dead and then the next tree is just fine. They build their own type of resistance to the disease," said Johnson.
The parks department hopes this resistance can prevent a total elimination of elm trees city-wide.
"The disease will eventually make it`s way through other elm trees in the city, and people will have to re-plant. Trees always have issues just like any other living organism, we just have to find a way to get around it and move on," said Amundson.
Harmon Park is the premiere park in town, but it may not feel that way without its elm trees. As they continue to die from the disease, the city will do its best to re-plant and re-grow the park.