Mill Creek to train professionals to protect park’s dying trees

The Mill Creek MetroParks board wants to protect its trees. But right now, it can’t because it doesn’t have properly-trained personnel.

However, the board is doubling the budget to look for diseased and dying trees in Mill Creek Park. The current budget sits at $10,000 and will become $20,000 heading into 2018.

The money will go towards training certain staff to becoming certified arborists — professionals in the cultivation, management and study of individual trees.

“There are people on our staff who have shown interest in becoming an arborist,” Lee Frey, president of Mill Creek Park’s commissioners, said. “This will allow not only to have an arborist, but also trained in other things that if we need them in either capacity, they will be able to do it.”

With winter setting in, insects commonly referred to as “wolly masses” threaten the health of Hemlock trees, which are commonly found in Mill Creek Park. Right now, the insect has come as close as Beaver County.

“We’re watching for it,” Frey said. “It’s coming this way. As far as we know, it has not gone into the park yet.”

The threat of diseased trees sparked the debate at the MetroParks special board meeting Monday night. The horticulture committee then requested there be a certified arborist in the park.

The park has not staffed an arborist since 2016.

“Nobody’s looking. Nobody’s out there,” one member of the horticulture committee said. “It’s nobody’s job to do that right now.”

They debated on just how to fill the position.

Some want it filled now, while others suggested paying for training and promoting within the current staff.

Horticulture committee member Ellen Speicher said the schooling for certification takes around three years — which she believes is too long to wait. She added that dead trees are hazards that can fall and harm both people and animals.

The board and the horticulture committee ultimately decided on training within. The compromise was that a third-party arborist will be hired to monitor the trees in the park until the staff they have now is fully-trained.

“In the meantime, we’ll use a service,” Frey said. “There are 70 arborist services within a 30-mile radius of the parks.”

The vote for this compromise was almost unanimous, with just one board member voting against it.

Now that the motion has passed, the board will start interviewing within the staff to decide who will get the training to become a certified arborist.

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