The Illinois Green Industry Association is helping out the Illinois State Fairgrounds by donating and planting 50 trees this fall to replace the ones that are dead or dying.
The fairgrounds area is expected to lose more than 200 trees in the next year or two due mainly to emerald ash borer damage.
The Springfield-based association has agreed to donate 200 trees over the next four years. The process will be broken down by delivering 50 trees in the spring, and 50 more in the fall.
“This is the ideal time right now,” Joe Khayyat, executive director of the association, told The State Journal-Register. “They’re losing trees all over the fairgrounds.”
The donated trees are both evergreen and deciduous and range from 5 to 7 feet tall. Some are expected to grow 2 to 3 feet a year, while others will grow more than 6 feet a year.
“Trees are an important part of the state fairgrounds, just as they are of any neighborhood or campus,” Khayyat said. “They make the fairgrounds more inviting.”
Not only do the trees provide shade for fair visitors, but they also reduce air and noise pollution and increase the property value of the land.
Most of the trees that were lost were ash trees susceptible to emerald ash borer infestation. Others, the association says, are dying from dry summers, harsh winters, poor pruning practices and plain old age.
According to the state Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Environmental Programs, 73 trees were affected by the emerald ash borer in June and 41 of those had to be removed in August for safety reasons.
It is estimated that 3,000 ash trees will have to be removed in the city of Springfield due to emerald ash borer damage.
“Ultimately we will lose almost all our ash trees,” Khayyat said. “It is just found in so many counties in Illinois.”
The trees chosen to be planted this fall include varieties of spruce and fir, sugar maple, elm, locust, crab apple and cockspur. These were selected for their high chance of survival and to provide diversity.
“These are good-size specimens, so you’re going to start to enjoy significant shade and other tree benefits within a few short years,” Khayyat said. “The ones that were planted today already look nice in the landscaping.”
The association has worked with the fairgrounds for 30 years and was happy to help out.
“We deeply care about it,” Khayyat said. “We have wanted to do something like this for years, but the time just wasn’t right. This is a way for our members to give back.”