Ash beetle taking a toll on trees in Colts Neck

By Kevin O’Brien

Ash trees continue to die from the ash beetle. We have thousands of ash trees in the Colts Neck area.

If a dead tree is in a neighbor’s yard and leaning or close to a neighbor’s property or where children play, Colts Neck officials will not apply the dead tree ordinance and homeowners should know about the ash tree infestation and risk.

The state of New Jersey wrote about the ash tree – “Infested trees decline from the top down and will be dead in one to three years. If the tree has more than 50% canopy damage, the tree cannot be saved.”

The ash beetle is very invasive … the bug is like a pair of scissors to a 100-foot-long garden hose … that cuts the hose at 10 feet, leaving the rest of the tree dry, brittle with little to no water for the rest of the tree.

The trees become so brittle and so dangerous that the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection website says tree service companies must use a crane or a lift to take down the impacted trees.

Purdue University reports dead and dying ash trees are extremely brittle and prone to cracking and dropping limbs on people and property. People have been killed or injured in cities across the country by falling ash tree limbs.

A Colts Neck code official inspected dead and dying trees on one property, but has no certifications in being an arborist.

The code official claimed the trees are at no risk because they are not uprooted. His report stated there are no trees near the adjoining properties … the tree of greatest concern is 23 inches from the property line.

Jersey Central Power and Light wrote of ash trees on Clover Hill – “They are dead and in an advanced state of decay” – yet this hazard was overlooked or dismissed by Colts Neck officials.

The general proposition of our ordinance is that a land occupier is under a duty to make reasonable use of his property so as to cause no unreasonable harm to those in the vicinity of the property.

For the safety of children playing in yards and people on our roads, property owners should be informed of the risks and their responsibility.

Morris County officials budgeted $600,000 for the removal of ash trees along county roads and in their parks. Colts Neck has no game plan to address the damage from the ash beetle.

Referencing a Colts Neck ordinance, dead and dying trees should be “promptly removed and abated.”

Now Colts Neck officials are saying the trees are not a danger because the trees are not uprooted. Uprooted is not referenced by experts as a sign of a dead and dying ash trees.

During a Township Committee meeting, the township attorney said there was no immediate risk; apparently her crystal ball is better than the experts’ assessment of the situation.

Why don’t our township officials support the ordinance, for the safety of drivers on our roads and children playing in yards?

Once an ash tree is infested with the emerald ash borer, the tree’s vascular system becomes compromised because that is the tissue the emerald ash borer larva feed on.

More information about the emerald ash borer in New Jersey can be found at

On the top right side of that website there is an icon that says Management Options, which outlines treatment options. Treatments should be done by licensed professionals.

These destructive pests can travel a half-mile on their own and up to 10 miles in a given day with winds and tree hopping. There is no viable trapping program to capture them.

Kevin O’Brien is a resident of Colts Neck.