The city golf courses in Hamilton, Ontario plan to remove 1,000 dead and diseased ash trees in small sections over the next three years. On all three golf properties, it was found that approximately 30% of ash trees were already dead.
Three golf courses operated by the city of Hamilton, Ontario, have been affected by disease, prompting the city to remove up to 1,000 ash trees, the Hamilton (Ont.) Spectator reported.
Last fall, King’s Forest Golf Course in Hamilton, Ontario, surveyed their grounds and found there to be an estimated 4,000 ash trees affected by disease. The disease, which is spread throughout North America, is caused by emerald ash borer beetles, the Spectator reported.
The assessment also identified 520 ash trees on the two Chedoke Golf Courses, the Spectator reported.
The emerald ash borer (EAB) crisis has been plaguing Canadian golf courses since early 2002, racking up a multi-million dollar price tag in the process. Throughout the three city golf courses in Hamilton, it was found that approximately 30 percent of the ash trees are already dead with an even higher percentage of trees that are infected or likely to be in the near future. Over the next ten years, the city of Hamilton expects to remove around 23,000 street ash trees due to the EAB disease, the Spectator reported.
The loss of these trees may prove to be an unexpected advantage for Hamilton golf courses, according to Hamilton’s golf course superintendent Chris Anker. Currently, the golf courses consist of turfgrass, which is particularly sensitive, needing at least 4 hours of morning sun to properly maintain its appearance. Overgrowth from the ash trees can cause a whole host of problems for the turf grass, in turn requiring more water and pesticide to keep up with its condition, the Spectator reported.
While there is no projected start date as to when the widespread removal will begin, golf course officials are already planning how to minimize effects on the playability of the courses. Rob Gatto, manager of the city golf courses, plans for the ash tree removals to happen in stages, so as to have the smallest effect possible on the playability of the course, the Spectator reported.
“We will be replanting in areas that are more strategic to the golf course, enhancing the beauty but making it easier for us to grow turf,” Gatto said.
The regional director of the U.S. Golf Association Green section, Dave Otis, explained that the reason the ash tree deaths are creating such a problem is because they are overgrown in the area. He said the current overgrowth is a result of the locations where the trees were originally planted, with little thought to future growth, the Spectator reported.
Tree removal today is “absolutely essential to the improvement and survival of golf courses in Canada and the North Atlantic. We cannot grow healthy, reliable turf in the shaded, pocketed environments,” Otis said.
The tree removal seems to have a more positive impact than many originally thought, as the city now has the “opportunity to rethink golf courses,” according to Chris Deathe, manager of the Davey Tree Expert Company. Eighteen to 20 new and stronger species will replace the ash trees, which would diversify the environment in a way that is not commonly seen in cities, according to Deathe.
“The whole canopy in Hamilton and Burlington will be a healthier and stronger canopy,” Deathe said.
However, funding for the removals in still a major aspect to consider. Last October, when King’s Forest Golf Course began removal, it is estimated that $35,000 was spent to remove 40 trees, according to Anker.
The city of Hamilton has a fund for tree removals as a result of the EAB crisis, but golf courses are not considered in the $1.6 million expected to be spent on street tree removal, the Spectator reported.
The city courses are self-sustaining, but hope the city will help with the cost of the tree removal. The full cost of removing the diseased trees cannot be determined until the courses consult with the city, the Spectator reported.