COLUMBIA CITY — Residents who want to pick up firewood from the city will be expected to sign a statement releasing Columbia City from liability if that wood happens to be ash.
The city’s Board of Works and Safety discussed the town’s ongoing ash removal project at its regular meeting Friday morning.
The city has begun a plan to cut down more than 200 ash trees around the city at a pace of about 50 trees per year.
The resulting work will produce firewood and city officials have agreed to make it available to city residents free of charge — with at least one condition.
The board asked attorney Lindsey Grossnickle to draft a release that people taking wood will have to sign.
The form will be an attempt to release Columbia City from liability in case the residents violate the most notable condition, which is that the wood not be transferred out of Whitley County.
Grossnickle and Clerk-Treasurer Rosie Coyle both said that wood cannot be taken to state parks.
The reason — a wood-munching bug.
The Indiana Department of Natural Resources determined Whitley County to be infected with the Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive insect that destroys all types of ash trees except for Mountain Ash, which according to a release from the Columbia City Tree Board, is not a true ash tree.
The trees included in this year’s removal have been marked with a fluorescent red dot at the base of the trunk. Property owners with these identified street trees will receive a letter in the next week informing them of the removal process and what to expect.
The Tree Board requests if the letter recipients are not the property owner, they forward the correspondence on to their landlord.
Smaller branches will be chipped into appropriately-sized mulch which can be used by the public without spreading the insect.
Removed ash wood will be made available at Morsches Park, back by the pond for burning within Whitley County boundaries.
The current program only includes trees in the city’s right-of-way. Only 10 percent of the city’s trees are on city property.
The program includes the planting of new trees.
For non-ash trees cut by the city for firewood, residents can pick up supplies, while they last at the city’s service facility on Towerview Drive during regular business hours.