The invasive emerald ash borer beetle is producing one benefit for local residents: free firewood.
The Asian pest is forcing crews from Metro Parks, Serving Summit County, to cut dead and dying ash trees, and the park district soon will have more firewood than it could burn in its pavilions, shelters and winter sports areas.
Thousands of ash trees will be coming down in the next few years, said Mike Johnson, chief of natural resources for the park district.
Starting today, Summit County residents can obtain a special-use permit from the district to remove firewood from some parks under certain conditions.
Persons with permits will be able to pick up firewood that park crews have cut and stacked. The wood will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Conditions include: persons must be Summit County residents and at least 18 years old, the firewood is for personal use and cannot be resold, the firewood cannot be removed from Summit County and no other wood may be taken from forests, trails or natural areas.
Johnson said that the emerald ash borer is having an especially big impact at Furnace Run Metro Park in Richfield Township and at Silver Creek Metro Park in Norton.
About 50 ash trees have been dropped in the past few weeks, and thousands more will be coming down, he said.
There is no remedy to keep the beetles from killing ash trees.
About 20 percent of the trees in the park district are ash and at risk from the pest that likely arrived in the Detroit area in shipping crates about 10 years ago. The beetle first was detected in Ohio in 2003.
The larvae, which feed on the inner bark, have killed millions of ash trees in the United States and Canada.
Johnson said some ash trees in the park district already are dead or dying. Others will be removed pre-emptively in areas near trails, parking lots and buildings to reduce the risk to visitors.
“People will begin to see a significant change in our wooded areas,” Johnson said in a statement. “It’s very unfortunate.”
The park district cannot quantify how much firewood will be available except to say that it will be significant, spokesman Nate Eppink said.
The park district is worried that its offer of free firewood will create “too much demand and too much interest,” he said.
To download a permit, visit www.summitmetroparks.org. Click on Firewood under the Inside Metro Parks drop-down menu.
For more information, call 330-867-5511.
Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or firstname.lastname@example.org.