A number of insecticides have been shown to protect ash trees from the emerald ash borer. To be effective, however, they all must be applied annually -- or, in the case of one product, once every two years -- over the course of the tree's natural life span.
Springer puts the number of ash trees in the public right of way in Mishawaka at a couple of hundred or so.
Damage to the trees, he says, is widespread.
"I've seen ash borer damage from University Park Mall to Reverewood to over by Logan Street, so throughout the city I've seen signs of damage."
'A lost cause'
Beginning in 1955, it took about 15 years for Dutch elm disease to wipe out the majority of American elms in South Bend. Mayor Frank Bruggner's "Committee for Combating and Preventing the Spread of Dutch Elm Disease," established in 1961, could do little to stop it.
During a four-day period in August, 1961, parks department crews hauled 355 truckloads of elm wood to the city's tree dump and burned it. Soon, crews were cutting down an average of five to six blighted elms a day, prompting parks Superintendent Ralph Newman to remark, "That's just about as fast as they can go."
By 1967, about half of the city's estimated 20,000 elm trees were either dead or dying as a result of the disease, and the other 10,000 or so faced a similar fate.
"The South Bend Park Department quietly and grimly is carrying on a major battle in a lost-cause war," The Tribune reported at the time. "The enemy is the dreaded Dutch elm disease and the phase of the operation is strictly in the stages of mopping up the ravages and inroads made by the aggressor."
A headline in the Sept. 22, 1970, edition of The Tribune offered a more blunt assessment of the situation. "Dutch elm disease battle lost," it read.
The situation was much the same in Mishawaka. Photos from the time show crews removing hundreds of elms from parks and tree lawns, including about a dozen or so in the 1200 block of Lincoln Way East, in front of Mishawaka High School.
Unable to stop the disease, the cities focused instead on replenishing the parts of the canopy lost to it.
In Mishawaka, crews planted dozens of Norway maples along West Jefferson Boulevard and North Main Street, bordering City and Fairview cemeteries. The trees replaced 53 "soldier elms," planted after World War I as a memorial to the soldiers killed in that conflict.
South Bend, meanwhile, embarked on a large-scale tree-planting program. It replaced trees on its own in the public right of way and encouraged property owners to do the same, declaring the week of April 8, 1962, "Plant a Tree Week" in the city.
The city publicized the program with stickers, posters and downtown window displays, and members of the South Bend Garden Club and St. Joseph Valley Nurserymen's Association appeared on local television in support of the cause.
(Tragically, a number of cities replaced dead elms with ash trees, Robin Usborne, communications manager for Michigan State University Extension in Lansing, says. Fortunately, this was not the case in South Bend or Mishawaka.)
Today, only a handful of American elms remain in the area. A handful remain on the South Quad, and, according to Thompson, the South Bend city forester, in the area of Potawatomi Park. Otherwise, the once ubiquitous trees are now few and far between.
In considering how long it might take the emerald ash borer to wipe out the area's ash trees, it's instructive, perhaps, to look north, to the state of Michigan, which has been dealing with the pest now for 10 years, four years longer than St. Joseph County.
"Michigan is considered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as generally infested" with the emerald ash borer, Usborne, the communications manager at MSU Extension, says, "which means it's just about everywhere in every county, except in the (Upper Peninsula)."