Worth will declare a war on the wilt.
The Oak wilt, a fungal disease that can wipe out oak trees, has been found in Worth and it’s causing financial hardship on residents.
And there is nothing that village officials can currently do about it.
Mayor Mary Werner, however, is suggesting that residents take it up with state officials.
“We need to declare Oak wilt a nuisance,” Werner said at the village’s Sept. 2 board meeting.
She suggests reaching out to Illinois State Representatives, Bill Cunningham or Kelly Burke for help declaring it a state nuisance, along with the Emerald Ash Borer.
“If we reach out to state legislatures, we can have them add Oak wilt onto the hazardous tree list,” Werner said, “A lot of people do not know about Oak wilt or that it is extremely dangerous to trees once they are affected. I was honestly not even aware of Oak wilt or how dangerous it is to trees until just recently.”
Oak Wilt has targeted an unknown number of trees in the community, particularly in the Worth Woods area.
Worth Woods is a community of single family homes built in the 1950s located west of Harlem Avenue and south of Southwest Highway. One resident discovered six trees that were both dead and infected with Oak Wilt on her property.
But Oak Wilt is not among one of the hazardous trees listed for removal according to Illinois state regulations, and the state will not allow for the village board to deem such trees disease stricken and have them removed by the city’s public works department.
“The resident was quoted over $1,000 per tree for their removal and was unable to afford the expense,” Werner said.
According to Worth’s village ordinance, if a home owner discovers a tree on his or her property line has been affected with Oak wilt, they are then solely financially responsible for the removal of the tree.
Oak wilt is a fungal disease that can quickly kill an oak tree. Symptoms vary by tree species but generally consist of leaf discoloration, wilt, defoliation, and death. The fungus is spread from diseased to healthy trees by insect vectors or via connections between tree roots. Once a tree is infected with Oak Wilt it can spread to surrounding neighboring trees.
Part of the nuisance process is if the village meets certain nuisance requirements that provide the owner an opportunity first to remove an affected tree and if they still do not act, the village then could proceed onto the property to remove the tree and eliminate the disease. If a resident refuses to act on the notice or they cannot financially, the village can step in.
The downside to the process is that the village does not have authority to file a lien against the property to cover the cost of removing the tree. The village can cite the owner for violating the nuisance ordinance. But it’s possible removal of the tree would rest on the shoulders of the village.
Until the steps begin to be taken in process, Trustee Rich Dziedzic suggested sending a letter out to residents informing them of the disease and letting it be known they are currently responsible for the removal of the infected tree or trees on their property. The council unanimously agreed and Werner indicated an informative letter will be sent out for all Worth residents in their next water bill.