February 20, 2020

Diseased tree clean-up to keep fair-goers safe underway

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OSCODA COUNTY — Due to beech bark disease, select trees are being removed from the Oscoda County Fairgrounds. According to Lora Freer, coordinator for the clean-up project and retired conservation district forester, a local logger began removing the trees on Wednesday, Jan. 14. 

“We have a logger who is taking the diseased trees down,” said Freer. “He is also taking down a few other hazardous trees that are unsturdy or might have branches that are about to fall off. We are also using a tree service who are removing trees that would be too dangerous or too close to the buildings for the logger to remove with the equipment he has.”

Freer explained that the disease, which is an insect that bores through the tree, wounds it and transfers a fungus to it and compromises the structural integrity, has slowly moved its way to Oscoda County through Canada and the East Coast. There is no remediation that can be safely done to prevent the disease from occuring. The DNR and the Forest Service performs the same method of tree removal on its land in response to beech bark disease as well.  

"Our biggest concern and why we are doing this is to keep people who come to the fairgrounds safe." said Freer. "We have one of the most beautiful fairgrounds in the state, and we want to keep it that way. We are not removing all the trees, just the ones we absolutely have to and the trees that are being removed, most people wouldn't even notice the difference they’re gone." 

Any diseased tree that is still viable will be processed by the logger and sold to a pallet maker. The money earned will help fund the project and pay for equipment needed to dispose of any tree not being sold, or for parts of the tree that can't be sold. The trees will be disposed of with a wood chipper or burned. Any debris left over will be cleaned up by the AuSable Valley Engine and Tractor Club in March. 

“The tractor club, which I am a member of, was the first to notice the problem,” said Freer. “So, I took it to the board of commissioners to see if they could get this taken care of and I volunteered to put the plan together. The tractor club was involved in getting this to happen. And, the commissioners have been so good with all this, they asked all the right questions and found out what they needed to know to get it taken care of. I am very impressed with them.”

The project is expected to take about three weeks to complete. 

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