The Future of Save Our Elms

Dear Ladd’s Addition Neighbors,

For the past 25 years, volunteers and donors have worked to preserve the streetscape in Ladd’s Addition. Our focus has been on slowing the progression of Dutch Elm Disease that first arrived in 1993. For many years, we held the progression at bay. The loss of mature elms was painful, but our efforts seemed to be slowing the destruction of the grove. For several years, we suffered no losses. Our strategy was to inoculate the entire grove of 250 trees on a three year cycle. In 1998, Dutch Elm Disease infections began to accelerate. We suffered significant losses on Lavender and Birch Streets. Further study of our inoculation practices led us to change course.

We conducted research to determine best practices for urban elm management. Consultation with urban foresters, fungicide producers, and the US Department of Agriculture led us to the difficult decision to focus our efforts on the growing “hot spots” where the fungus had taken hold in the inter-twined root systems. A new, more expensive process was adopted in an effort to slow the progress at the boundaries of the infected areas that had spread to Ladd Avenue and Elliott Avenue near Abernethy School. Save Our Elms does not have the financial resources to protect every tree in the neighborhood. We would need to inoculate 85 trees per year, expanding our revenues by a factor of five.

After five years’ experience, the results and efficacy are now in doubt again. Since 2010, the macro-infusion process has been used to inoculate trees using the Arbortect fungicide. This is the “gold standard” for elm preservation for streets and parks. It is the process used by the City of Portland in the downtown park blocks and other park settings.

Sadly, our losses continued unabated. Of the nineteen trees lost in the past two years, over half were “protected” by the Arbortect inoculate. A new part of the grove was infected on Ladd Avenue near Palm Street in 2015.

The process is likely effective in protecting isolated trees from insect-borne infection, but once it takes hold in a block face, it will spread through root grafts to all trees on the street. Our experience in slowing the spread through closely planted trees has been disappointing.

Save Our Elms is again at a crossroads. The Board of Directors has come to the conclusion that continued efforts and fund-raising for a process that has stopped showing measurable results may not be a responsible course of action. While this has been a wonderful community-based effort, building bonds between neighbors, it is time for a frank conversation about the effort. The Board is dedicated to preserving and maintaining the historic streetscape. Efforts will continue to keep the historic trees healthy for as long as we can with programs to encourage pruning and watering. We will continue to evaluate any new methods that may become available. Our team, with your generous help, is also dedicated to replacing any trees in the neighborhood that have been lost with trees that match or approximate the historic landscape plan.

Save Our Elms Board of Directors

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