Native to Asia, the Emerald Ash Borer was first found near Detroit in 2002. This exotic bark beetle arrived to the U.S. in the packing material of cargo ships. Since its arrival, it has killed hundreds of millions of ash trees throughout the Midwest and East.
The larvae feed on the inner bark of the tree. This inhibits the tree from carrying water and nutrients to its living foliage. The adult beetles exit the trees in the spring and fly to new specimens to lay their eggs and repeat the cycle. Humans transporting firewood are the most common means for the spread.
In 2008 it arrived to Minnesota. Minnesota, has some 900 million ash trees, more than any other state. As of 2016, the beetle has only been documented in the Twin Cities and Rochester areas of Minnesota.
The University of Michgan is producing decoys to lure the beetles to their demise, the USDA is exploring the use of parasitic wasps that naturally destroy EAB eggs, and other municipalities are chemically treating the trees avoid the extreme cost of removal.
The city of Rochester is making an effort to treat many of their ash trees on public land. Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Forestry Department, in a proactive effort to combat the problem, is systematically removing all ash trees, infected and healthy, from the urban canopy. Both municipalities are working with the Department of Agriculture and the DNR to prevent the spread and further infestation of the emerald ash borer (EAB) to other parts of the state. The Twin Cities’ ash logs are being ground into burnable mulch, and some are sold for wood use products.
Preparations & Tests:
As part of a State Arts Board Grant, MPRB provided the lower portion of a 35-year old white ash tree that was cut down by the city. A company that specializes in tree castings for natural history museums created a reusable mold from the log.
After a test sculpture in my backyard, I will construct a sculpture on the 7100 block of Broad street boulevard in Mankato, MN, and then in Soldiers Field Memorial Park in Rochester, MN. I will pour the reusable mold in concrete. The sculptures will stand approximately 20in wide, by 5 feet tall. The furrowed bark characteristic of the ash tree will be captured in the dense industrial material of poured concrete.
After the concrete has cured, I will drill into the structures to implant small bronze cast beetles. These EABs will be placed about the trunk symbolizing the spring departure of the adult beetles from their host trees to new specimens on which to lay their eggs. The truncated trees may be reminiscent of a totem or provide an effigy to a lost tree. The form may also reference the folk art roadside sculptures that celebrate community individuality and culture throughout Minnesota.
A public reception will announce the sculptures formally in the Fall of 2016.
Big THANK YOU's go out to the Minnesota State Arts Board, the City of Mankato, the Tourtellote Park Neighborhood Association, the Greater Rochester Arts and Cultural Trust, Rochester Parks and Recreation, and Acorn Exhibits for supporting this work.
The Mankato Sculpture:
In the early 70s, each block of Broad Street Boulevard was a canopy of elms trees. This grassy median was a community gathering place, and in the winter, the elms trees were heavily lit with holiday lights. The city went so far as to run power through this median to facilitate resident-decorating of the boulevard in what was then called the “festival of lights.”
In the late 70s Dutch elm disease came through the area and all the trees were removed. Rather than replanting the boulevard with a diverse mix of hardwoods, the city planted each block entirely in one species. The 7100 block, the last block of the boulevard, was planted exclusively in ash.
The Mankato sculpture will stand below this canopy of living ash, all of which are around 40 years old. Fortunately, the EAB has not yet been found in Mankato. The Mankato sculpture is meant to promote awareness with hopes to help prevent the spread of infested wood to this area. If the beetle does reach Mankato, the sculpture may become and effigy to the lost trees.
The Rochester Sculpture:
The Rochester sculpture replaces an ash tree that was removed from an EAB infestation at Soldiers Field Memorial Park in downtown Rochester. While the park is a veterans memorial, in the center of the park is a walking/running track. The perimeter of this track is lined with exclusively 50-60 year old ash trees. In this location, the sculpture may memorialize the ash trees that have been lost in the area.