How Harrisonburg, VA, Upscales Dead Ash Trees

Harrisonburg, VA, home to 54,000 people and the annual Gr8 Film Festival, is also serious about repurposing its ash trees victimized by the emerald ash borer.

Harrisonburg’s first EAB siting was in 2015. Since 2018, the city has removed more than 550 ash trees. More than 750 additional ash trees are scheduled for removal by the end of 2021. 

In 2018, Harrisonburg chemically treated 36 ash trees through the Virginia Department of Forestry’s Cost-Share Program in an attempt to preserve them. Thirty-two of those trees received a second treatment in 2020. The four untreated in the second round were damaged by storms. Plans call for reevaluating the remaining 32 trees for treatment again in 2022.

Unfortunately the city cannot afford to treat all of its ash trees. In the search for finding a higher use for the many that can’t be saved, the Harrisonburg’s public works department has partnered with the Virginia Urban Wood Group to use the wood when possible and, thus, keep it out of landfills.

Some of the wood is auctioned off through the city’s public surplus website. 

In one of the more creative displays of using reclaimed ash wood, two city staff members working with local company Willow Run Custom Lumber,  took an ash tree that was recently removed from Westover Park and transformed the lumber into a shadow box to present an American flag created out of a fire hose. It was a fitting send-off gift to retiring master firefighter BJ Clark.

 “As much as I was saddened to retire, I truly appreciate that a part of the city will remain with me,” Clark said. 

Added Jeremy Harold, Harrisonburg’s green space manager, “Anytime we can take a tree that was lost for unfortunate reasons, and give it a new purpose as opposed to it going to waste – that’s what the Harrisonburg Urban Wood Utilization Program is all about.” 

Learn more: Out of the Ashes | City of Harrisonburg, VA.

About that Super Gr8 film fest, here’s a video that will tickle the nostalgic funny bone of anyone who ever filmed or was filmed with a Super 8 camera.