ROXBURY, NJ - The Picnic Grove section of Roxbury's Horseshoe Lake Park in Succasunna is about to become substantially less shady, thanks to an incurable fungal infection that is attacking its oak trees.

The disease has killed a number of tall trees and is likely to kill more, said township officials. They agreed recently to spend about $30,000 to have a company remove more than 40 of the impacted trees. They said more are likely facing a similar fate.

An inspection of the trees in and around the Picnic Grove found an infestation of a Oak Wilt, a fungus that blocks nutrients from reaching their branches, according to a May 15 report by Roxbury Public Works Director Richard Blood.

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"Some of the trees were dead while others have limited spring growth," Blood said. He said the fungus moves quickly, killing oak trees in one to three years.

 "The fungus is transmitted through root contact and is carried by some bugs," Blood noted. "There is no cure or treatment for Oak Wilt."

A Problem Throughout Morris County

Two tree experts determined that 42 trees "need to be removed as soon as possible as these trees are in high traffic areas, both vehicular and pedestrian," Blood said. He said about half of those trees are dead and others "are in a severe state of decline."

 Blood noted there are other oaks in the immediate area in danger of becoming infected and dying. "It is my understanding that this fungus has attacked oak trees throughout Morris County," he added.

The money for the tree removal and stump grinding is coming from the township's Open Space Fund, which is replenished by the Open Space Tax.

Construction crews are already in the park, building the $1.5 million improvement project at Horseshoe Lake Park that will include the installation of an artificial turf field, an enlarged parking lot, new fencing, new irrigation and new lighting. Blood said the tree removal teams will do their best to avoid working during times of heavy park visitation, but he stressed that quick removal of the trees is vital for public safety.

Because of the danger the dead trees pose, the township removed picnic tables from the Picnic Grove area.

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