City of Winnipeg looks to get ahead of Dutch Elm Disease after losing 8,000 trees last year
WINNIPEG -- More of Winnipeg's mighty elm trees are falling as the city continues its decades-long battle with Dutch Elm Disease, but not all hope is lost.
Chainsaws and wood chippers roared on Downing Street Tuesday afternoon as city crews grappled to take down an 80-year-old tree.
Donna Kilburn has been living on the street for 20 years and recently saw the elm tree in front of her house chopped down.
"It's sad for us here in the West End," she said. "We are losing all of our beautiful trees here."
Over in Riverview, it's the same situation with the elm trees near Dan Fulton's house.
"Whenever you fly into Winnipeg, one of the first things you notice is what a forested city it really is. It looks beautiful from the air as well as on the ground," said Fulton. "It's sad to see them come down, but I gather if they are diseased, it's best for them to come down."
Martha Barwinsky, the city's forester, said removing the trees serves the greater good.
"We don't like to remove the trees, but we are removing that tree to protect the whole urban forest, and that's the whole idea of urban forest management. We are managing a population of trees, not just one individual," said Barwinsky.
According to Barwinsky, Dutch Elm Disease was first found in the city in 1975. It is a fungus that eventually kills elm trees, a staple in Winnipeg's urban forest.
Last year, the city removed around 8,000 elm trees.
"Dutch Elm Disease is here," Barwinsky said. "We won't be able to eradicate it, so the goal of the program is to manage the disease so we are reducing the impact on the urban forest in our communities."
Wanting to remove as few trees as possible, the city is trying to stay proactive.
"Really, what we want to do is conduct tree maintenance and tree care. That's the goal again this year is that we complete these removals and we can get back into pruning and general maintenance," said Barwinsky.
On top of Dutch Elm Disease, the city is also battling dry weather this year.
"We are looking at probably a dry year this year, so simply watering the boulevard or around the root system of your tree really is helpful," Barwinsky said.
As for Kilburn's missing trees, she hopes the city replaces them.
"I'd like to see the trees replaced and to bring some of that life and joy back to the West End," she said.
According to the city, it tries to replant trees, but can't always due to conditions in that spot.
For Kilburn, she said she's been on a waiting list for two years to get hers replanted.
Barwinsky said the city hopes it won't have to cut down as many trees this year. When replanting, the city is now using a wider range of species since greater diversity increases disease resiliency and also creates a more interesting canopy.