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WATERLOO | Destructive green beetles may help Gates Park golfers avoid some trouble this spring.

Waterloo forestry crews cut down 134 ash trees at the municipal golf course over the last month as part of their ongoing efforts to deal with an emerald ash borer infestation.

"These trees were beginning to be infested by the emerald ash borer that is slowly killing all of the ash trees in town," City Forester Todd Derifield said. "It is important to remove the trees before they are entirely dead and begin to pose a safety risk."

Crews left 20 ash trees standing at Gates, including those planted as memorials or situated in key strategic locations on the golf course. The city is evaluating whether to treat the memorial trees to stave off the EAB infestation.

While golfers often joke about cutting down trees they tend to hit with errant shots, Golf Coordinator J.B. Bolger said frequent players may miss some of the trees now that they're gone.

"There's going to be a few critical comments," Bolger said. "But I think we are taking steps to replace the trees that are in important areas."

The city has a contract in place to plant 68 new trees at the Gates golf course this spring using a $20,000 Trees Please grant from MidAmerican Energy.

The emerald ash borer, which has wiped out ash forests in other Midwest cities, was discovered in Waterloo on Jan. 24, 2014, in a neighborhood north of East High School.

Nineteen Iowa counties have confirmed EAB infestations since 2010.

Over the past year, Waterloo forestry crews have removed 430 ash trees from public property, including parks and roadside rights-of-way. The effort started in the neighborhood where EAB was discovered and has been expanding out radially from there.

"We've only got 3,977 to go," Derifield said.

The City Council hired an additional forestry worker last year to help with the removals. The city's plan has been to remove as many ash trees as possible before they become infested and require hiring private contractors to help.

Derifield said his forestry crew has stepped up to the challenge.

"They have been tremendous in their ability to get the ash tree removals done safely and efficiently," he said. "I really can’t speak highly enough about them."

Meanwhile, residents across the Cedar Valley should start considering their options if they have ash trees on their private property. The options include removal or applying an insecticide treatment, which would need to be applied periodically over the tree's lifetime.

A number of private businesses will evaluate, remove or treat an ash tree. A list of those companies can be found online at www.waterlooleisureservices.org by going to the forestry page and the emerald ash borer tab.

"Any of the local nurseries will be happy to talk to you about replacement tree varieties," Derifield said. "Do some homework now so you can develop your plan."

Waterloo is removing most ash trees from roadsides rather than paying for treatment. However, an adjacent property owner who wants to keep and treat a roadside tree in front of their home can get a permit from Leisure Services. The property owner would be responsible for the treatment cost.

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