BETHEL, Ohio - As many as 500 Bethel and Tate Township residents are expected to attend a Tuesday night briefing on what's being done to eradicate the Asian Longhorned Beetle in the community.
The meeting, sponsored by the Bethel Asian Longhorned Beetle Citizens Cooperative, is from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. at Bethel-Tate High School on Route 125.
It will be preceded by a 5:00 p.m. session with the Cooperative's attorney, Brian O'Connell. Citizens are concerned that the private contractor removing the trees will be able to sell the wood chips and keep the profits.
"We're going to have a panel of experts and a question-and-answer period," said organizer Bill Skvarla.
The public session comes on the heels of a private Monday night briefing for elected Clermont County officials.
What may draw the most interest from the public on Tuesday is a demonstration of chemical treatments that might be used to get rid of the insect, instead of cutting down infested and potential host trees.
Officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have surveyed 81,000 trees so far and found 6,062 of them invested. Crews have already cut down over 2,500.
"Our cooperative is very much in favor of them taking out the infested, but we just will not let them take the non-infested, healthy trees out," Skvarla said.
The USDA will complete an environmental study in mid-March to determine how many more trees have to be removed. It was originally supposed to be completed by mid-January.
Skvarla said he sees that as a double-edged sword.
"It's a victory that we've held them from taking the healthy trees down early, but by the same token it's a bad thing in that now they're going to be able to say, ‘Well, we can't chemically treat the trees. It's too late in the season,'' he said.
Driving down Swings Corner/Point Isabella Road, it's obvious that the landscape has changed. Straw covers areas of lawn where grass is starting to grow and trees once stood.
One driveway used to be lined with dozens of stately trees. Now, they're gone.
The beetle was found in a tree on the front lawn of Skvarla's house. Now, it and two others have been removed.
"It's sad. It brings tears to my eyes," he said. "To see these big 100, 150, 200-year-old trees around here that are going down, it absolutely breaks my heart," he said,