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Invasive emerald ash borer decimating 2 area provincial parks

Officials say 10,000 trees are impacted at Mara and McRae Point Provincial Parks
Emerald ash borer is impacting 10,000 trees in Mara and McRae Point Provincial Parks, officials say. The 'mitigation' efforts will change the landscape at the two Orillia area parks.

An invasive wood-boring beetle, that has wreaked havoc where ever it has found footing, is about to "dramatically" change the landscape at a pair of popular local provincial parks. Up to 10,000 trees could be lost.

Staff at Mara and McRae Point Provincial Parks are trying to do all they can to avoid potentially hazardous conditions that could be caused by the emerald ash borer (EAB), which continues to infect White Ash trees across the province.

Scott Thomas, superintendent for Mara and McRae Point Provincial Parks, says EAB could destroy all the trees in the two parks if left neglected by staff.

"Ontario Parks is working with a contractor this winter to mitigate the risks to help ensure the safe enjoyment and use of camping and day-use areas by the visiting public as well as maintaining and enhancing ecological integrity," Thomas said.

According to the Invasive Species Centre and the Government of Ontario, EAB is an invasive insect first discovered in Ontario in June 2002. The wood-boring beetle, native of Asia, feeds on all ash species in Ontario.

Native to Asia, the emerald ash borer is an invasive species that’s destroying Ontario’s ash trees, putting the pumpkin ash on the endangered species list.

Since its arrival, the EAB has been rapidly spreading across North America, having devastating effects on the ash tree population, killing up to 99 per cent of ash trees in its path.

"As the White Ash tree's health declines toward mortality, its risk increases," Thomas explained. "Branches and crowns of trees are more likely to fail and fall, and eventually, the entire tree collapses, presenting a risk to people and facilities as well as neighbouring trees and overall forest health and the environment."

Approximately 10,000 trees are affected by the EAB at Mara and McRae Point Provincial Parks, two campgrounds that not only draw summer visitors from around the province but are popular year-round retreats for local residents. To date, the other local provincial park, Bass Lake Provincial Park, has not been impacted by EAB.

"We are managing the situation before it becomes a significant risk to the public and the environment," Thomas explained. "The infected trees will be removed prior to them presenting a hazard to the over 300 campsites and two-day use areas of Mara and McRae Point."

The removal of the White Ash trees that would potentially be hazardous in the future will "dramatically change" the forest composition and the look and feel of many of the park’s campsites and day-use areas.

"That said, we are optimistic that the remaining forest will rebound environmentally and provide the safe and pleasant camping and day-use environment that these parks have provided for decades," Thomas said.

For public safety and to allow the forestry professionals to carry out the work, Ontario Parks is closing sections of the parks at a time and sometimes the entire park when required.

"Where possible, access will be permitted and directed to areas where work is not being performed," Thomas explained.

Signage, notices, and maps are present at park access points to inform the public of the current situation and associated restrictions. These will be updated as required; work is expected to continued into March 2024. To ensure safety, Thomas says park visitors must be aware of the situation and follow the directions posted.

"Forestry crews will be working up to seven days per week alternating between Mara and McRae Point using typical forestry equipment and vehicles including cranes, harvesters, loaders, bucket trucks, mulchers, and chippers," Thomas explained.

Up-to-date information can be accessed by emailing him at [email protected] or calling 705-326-7054, extension 223.

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Tyler Evans

About the Author: Tyler Evans

Tyler Evans got his start in the news business when he was just 15-years-old and now serves as a video producer and reporter with OrilliaMatters
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