Disease forces removal of trees in Schenley Park

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PITTSBURGH —

If you’ve been by Schenley Park lately, you may have noticed a lot of trees have been cut down.

Target 11 investigator Rick Earle reported crews were forced to cut down nearly two acres of oak trees after they were infected with the deadly oak wilt fungus.

“It’s very sad,” said Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Park Management Director Phil Gruszka.

In an effort to control the disease, crews dug a trench around the infected trees, cutting their roots off from the healthy trees.

“We are losing about 60 trees. But by us removing these trees, we are saving thousands, hundreds of thousands of other trees,” Gruszka said. “As unfortunate as it is, doing nothing makes it even worse.”

Earle reported this isn’t the first time the city has had to deal with oak wilt. At Frick Park, four years ago, crews removed dozens of trees and stopped the disease from spreading.

Crews have also taken similar measures at Riverview and Highland parks in the past.

“They’re saying we could lose 50 percent of our woodlands,” Mike Gable, director of Pittsburgh Public Works said. “Absolutely. We are trying to get it before it gets out of control.”

People who use the park every day, like John Alvin, say they’re optimistic.

“It’s sad. But they’re going to plant some more in a couple of years so you won’t even notice,” Alvin said.

As soon as the few remaining trees are removed, crews will clean up the debris and plant new trees – birch, cherry and maple – that won’t be affected by the oak wilt disease.