Ridgefield to begin surveying dead ash trees along roads

Photo of Peter Yankowski

Fifty years after the summer of Woodstock, the town is facing another invasion of beetles — only they’re leaving a swath of dead ash trees throughout town, rather than catchy British pop songs.

The Emerald Ash Borer, a metallic-green beetle native to Eastern Russia, China, and as far east as Japan, has found its way to Ridgefield. When the beetle’s eggs hatch on the bark of an ash tree, the larvae chew their way into the thin band of living wood and inner bark. Within a few years of beetle infestation, the tree dies.

As a result, the town plans to start surveying and cutting down the standing ash trees killed by the beetles that sit along roads in the town right of way.

The survey work will begin in the last two weeks of September after families get back from vacations and kids are back in school, according to Emergency Management Director Dick Aarons.

“From an emergency management perspective, it’s important for us to remove those trees that are in the town right of way that could collapse,” said Aarons, noting that the dead trees can take out utility wires and block roads when they come down.

Members of Aaron’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) will be the boots on the ground surveying dead trees, and logging their location.

Aarons said the team has an app that allows them to snap a photo of the dead ash trees, which pinpoints the exact location of the tree, and sends the data back to his office, where another program lays the survey data out on a map.

“We’ll have clearly marked vehicles in the neighborhoods,” Aarons said.

The exact number of trees to be felled is unknown.

“That’s why we’re doing the survey,” he said.

Town Tree Warden John Pinchbeck will instruct the volunteers on how to spot signs of the beetle infestation.

The town plans to cut only the trees that are in the town right of way along roads — typically around 25 feet out from the center of the road on either side. Dead trees on private property will be the responsibility of the homeowner.

Aarons said removing the dead trees will likely be a multi-year effort. As for the survey, he hopes to have the work done much sooner.

“We may be reaching out for additional volunteers if we need them,” he said. “We’d like to complete this in one or two Saturdays.”