ELBURN—Elburn Public Works employee Jenna Cook knows her trees. If you live in Elburn, she knows your trees, too.
When the first Emerald Ash Borer was identified in nearby Lily Lake in 2006, Cook attended an emergency meeting on the disease at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Ill.
“I’ve had my nose in the books since then, learning how to identify (tree) diseases and pests,” Cook said.
Cook said she has also received help from several of the local landscapers in learning how to identify different species of trees, and has attended quite a few classes on various aspects of trees presented by the Illinois Arborists Association, the Morton Arboretum, as well as other municipalities.
Cook has had quite a bit of practical tree experience, as well, getting up to speed quickly on identifying an ash tree and learning what the Emerald Ash Borer looks like. A survey conducted in 2006 identified 700 Ash trees located within the Elburn parkways, with 100 percent of those trees found to have the Emerald Ash Borer.
“We’ve lost 640 trees,” Cook said. “There are 60 trees left, and I anticipate that within a year or so, they’ll be dead.”
Cook said that prior to the advent of the Emerald Ash Borer disease, Ash trees were a very popular tree to plant.
“It’s a hardy, fast-growing tree,” she said. “There were a lot of them in Blackberry Creek and the Lions Club Park.”
The village has paid to remove the 640 parkway trees, and has replaced 320 of those with a different species of tree. Cook said that the removal costs have eaten up a good portion of the budgeted money.
She explained that the village does not encourage treatment of the trees, because it has not been effective.
Cook applied for and received two grants from the Illinois Department of Agriculture in the past several years, for a total of $20,000, to help with the costs of removing and replacing the trees. The Illinois Department of Agriculture recently selected Cook’s Emerald Ash Borer management plan to place on its website, as an example for other entities dealing with the problem.
“She has worked really hard on this,” Village President Dave Anderson said. “It was a really proud moment when I got the email.”
Cook has also spent the last seven years getting to know the trees in Elburn. She said that when she receives a call from a resident, they are usually surprised that she knows what species of trees are in the parkway next to their house.
Cook said the village has a 50/50 program, if a resident would like to purchase a tree to plant in a parkway near their home. The resident gets to choose from among a number of species of trees. According to Cook, the village is working toward having a diversity of species within the village. That way, if there is a problem with one species, not as many trees will be affected.
Cook can be reached through the village at (630) 365-5060.