Owner of The Holly & Ivy Inn talks about removal of trees

Staff Writer

David Hayes didn't want to remove the historic Ash trees in his yard.  He wanted to save the 100- year -old trees that had been a part of Newton for so long. 

Standing at around 90 feet tall, the trees were hard to miss by passersby of North Main Avenue.

They provided shade in the yard and withstood many years of stormy weather. 

When purchasing the property, the trees were just one of several things that attracted Hayes, but when he started noticing changes, he knew it wasn't good. 

After buying the 1936 house, formerly owned by Hugh and Julie Gaither, Hayes started noticing loss in the canopies of the trees.  

“There was a 25 percent loss in the canopy,” Hayes said.

He also noticed a series of D-shaped holes in the bark.

“The holes start right at about five feet up the tree,” Hayes said. 

He contacted the North Carolina Forest Service, and they explained the problem. 

The Ash problem started in Detroit, Michigan in 2001, but “exploded” in the South around 2012.

Pallets made from Ash were imported into the United States from China.  Those pallets had Emerald Ash Borers in the wood. 

These flying Asian beetles specifically feed on and destroy Ash trees. 

They are shiny green, around the same size as lightening bugs, and bore into Ash trees.

The beetle grub then feeds underneath the bark, destroying the funnel where the tree takes in all of its water and nutrients.

“After the funnel is destroyed, the tree can't feed its highest points,” Hayes said. 

Essentially, the tree dries up and dies. 

Hayes also consulted with a master arborist to see what could be done.

“You're not going to save them,” he said.  “You can't really treat them at this point.”

There was a shot-in-the-dark chance that an Ash in the front yard could be saved, but it wasn't guaranteed.

Hayes said he would have to have a specialist bore into the tree, penetrate it with a pesticide, and then do other things to improve the overall health of the tree.  It would cost thousands of dollars. 

“He said it was a 50/50 chance,” Hayes said. 

So, after it was discussed, Hayes had seven Ash trees and a rotten Hemlock removed.

“My trees were too far gone,” he said. 

Another reason to remove the trees was due to safety.  Hayes said a small limb had fallen on a client's rental car.

“That was the catalyst showing me I needed to do something,” he said. 

Even though it's his property, Hayes realizes that some residents are upset over the trees being gone. 

“I'm not the bad guy who's cutting down all the trees,” he said.

He is often questioned by locals wanting to know why his historic Ash trees were removed.

“When I talk to people downtown, as soon as I tell them who I am, they ask me why did I take the trees down,” he shared.  “People want to know, because this is part of their community.”

Hayes has taken an interest in Ash trees now.

“It's a very popular tree,” he said.  “Most baseball bats are made from the wood of Ash trees.”

 He's learned that there is possible hope if a certain type of beetle-killing wasp is imported.

“That opens up a whole other can of worms,” he said. 

As for his Newton neighbors, Hayes wants them to understand that other Ash trees in the area may also be affected.

He says that once you see the signs that your tree is probably too far gone to treat.
“It happens so fast,” Hayes said.  “Other people that have Ash trees in the area are going to be sad pretty quickly.”

He said that it's predicted that every Ash tree in North America will be gone in the next 25 years. 

“It's sad,” Hayes said. 

He shook his head in frustration looking at his dirt yard. 

“My yard was utterly destroyed,” Hayes said. 

His next step is to re-seed the yard and then to complete the landscaping. 

Hayes plans to plant different trees, however he said the type is “yet-to-be-determined.”