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Pine beetles infest Woodlands trees

Pine beetle-infested trees that posed hazards at a popular trailhead in the Jacksonville Woodlands were taken down last week, but the infestation appears to be spreading in the woods.

Bartlett Tree Service of Medford removed 29 dead and dying Ponderosa pines, some as tall as 120 feet, at the start of the Sarah Zigler Trail three-quarters of a mile west of city limits off Highway 238. The trees were on city-owned land.

“They had to come down. This is a major trailhead,” said Larry Smith, executive director of the Jacksonville Woodlands Association. The group, the city and the Bureau of Land Management manage the Jacksonville trails system under a joint agreement.

A BLM counter located on the trail shows 50 to 100 people are using it per day this time of year, Smith said. The east end of the trail begins in a city park just below the Britt Festivals grounds. The west end parking spot, located opposite Maryann Drive, gets a lot of use during the summer, he said.

A windstorm Dec. 11 brought down two large trees in the area. City Parks Superintendent Rick Shields removed some of the debris and surveyed the site.

“That’s when they started to notice the die-off,” said Smith.

Climbers scaled many of the trees to remove the tops before bringing down the remainder of the trunks, said City Administrator Jeff Alvis. Water lines and other features in the area called for extra care in the operation. The site is between two pedestrian bridges that span Jackson Creek.

“It wasn’t your typical mountain operation,” said Alvis.

Two log loads were hauled to a mill on Monday. Alvis said he hoped the timber payment will exceed costs of trimming, a little over $4,000. Some of the logs were turning blue, which would reduce their value. Money received will be returned to a tree trimming fund in the city budget.

Trees ranged in height form 80 to 120 feet and were 60 to 100 years old. Smith said the larger trees probably sprang up after the last large-scale logging in that area, about 80 years ago.

A die-off of Douglas fir that occurred in 1991-92 led to the removal of hundreds of trees in the Beekman Woods and the Britt Woods, which contains the Zigler trail, Smith said. Die-off is more likely in dry years when the beetles can more easily bore through drier bark.

Branches and debris from the cut will be chipped and spread on the trail. Types of trees to purchase for reforestation are already under consideration.

“The beetle infestation is moving on up the hill,” said Smith. “The infestations completely just stops at the top of the hill where it moves into oak land.”

From the Jacksonville Cemetery, Smith said he spotted six dead Douglas firs in the area, but that none is near a trail.

“We will be watching to see if it is around,” Alvis said of the infestation. “The beetles are in the trees. We’ll have to do this in stages. We got the really bad ones down.”

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

Pine beetle-infested trees that posed hazards at a popular trailhead in the Jacksonville Woodlands were taken down last week. Photo by Larry Smith