ROXBURY, NJ – A Roxbury company has been chosen by the county to begin taking down nearly 900 trees as the first phase of a county-wide program to deal with Emerald Ash Borer infestation.

The county freeholders agreed to pay the company, Tree King of Landing, $498,465 for the work. Tree King will remove 880 diseased trees in Long Hill and Morris townships as the “first round” of a long-term effort that will eventually involve tree removal in all 39 Morris County municipalities.

Tree King is also the company recently hired by Roxbury to remove 42 diseased oak trees at Horseshoe Lake Park. Those trees were killed by Oak Wilt, a fungus.

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In announcing the contract, Morris County Administrator John Bonanni said the targeted ash trees are along county roads and are being felled “for the safety of motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.”

“Residents and property owners living along county rights-of-way where ash trees will be removed will be notified by letter and/or a tag placed on their doors at least one week prior to tree removal,” said the county.

The trees to be cut were identified by the county Shade Tree Division.

No Feasible Alternatives

“This is a difficult but necessary project,’’ said Freeholder Deborah Smith. “We are directly in the path of the infestation. Removing these trees must be done for public safety reasons, and we have to act quickly to stay ahead on this issue.’’

Bonanni said the county has no option, noting “it would be costly, with no guarantee of effectiveness, to try to save the ash trees.” However, he said the county Park Commission is trying to save “a select number of ash trees at its arboretum properties based on the trees’ locations and health of the specimens.”

Since it was first found in 2002, in Michigan and Ontario, the Emerald Ash Borer  has killed millions of ash trees in North America, according to the county.

Once infested with the insect, most untreated ash trees die within five years and “become brittle and difficult-to-remove,” the county said.

Bonanno said the county does not intend to plant new trees to replace the felled ash trees, partly because keeping county road rights-of-ways clear of trees will “limit future damage to power lines during storms.”

He said the Morris County Park Commission is planning to also remove ash trees “from high use areas of the park system before they become a safety hazard.” Those places are defined as high-use areas where park visitors are likely to be stationary for prolonged periods of time, paved or otherwise improved trails and park roadways.

So far, the Park Commission has tagged more than 12,000 ash trees in 34 facilities that it wants removed, the county said.

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