Thurmont Community Park: An Emerald Ash Borer Success Story

Tuesday, May 8, 2018
The Town of Thurmont is a small community of 6,500 residents in the mountains of western Maryland. Despite its size, the town’s Community Park is a hub of activity, popular for daily use and is also home to Colorfest, an annual craft fair which brings 125,000 visitors to Thurmont every October. Named for the colors of the season, Colorfest attendees gather under the golden leaves of the park’s ash canopy to enjoy not only the crafts, but also the beautiful fall foliage.

In 2016, it was discovered that the park’s ash trees were in decline due to emerald ash borer (EAB), a destructive forest pest killing millions of ash trees as it moves across the country. Maryland Forest Service employees conducted an inventory and found over 230 large ash trees in the 23-acre park. Many of the trees were already dead and dying. With guidance and cost-share assistance from Maryland Forest Service, the town was able to chemically treat and protect 30 healthy trees in strategic areas around the park, preserving shade, visitor safety, and the colorful forested aesthetic that visitors and residents enjoy. Trees that were beyond saving were prioritized for removal, particularly around playgrounds and picnic areas, to protect visitor safety. Maryland Forest Service staff also connected the town to funding opportunities for re-planting, and helped them to select species that would survive well in the heavily-trafficked park and provide brilliant fall color. A prompt and well-planned response to EAB has allowed Thurmont to prevent a major public safety concern, jump-start recovery with early replanting, and protect the aesthetic that draws tourists to Colorfest, benefitting the entire region.

Urban forestry program coordinator Becky Wilson demonstrates proper
planting technique at a volunteer planting event in Thurmont.

When EAB arrived in Maryland, the Maryland Forest Service recognized that it would have massive economic, ecological, and public safety impacts in urban communities, where ash trees have been commonly planted for decades.  With the support of US Forest Service funding, the Maryland Forest Service has engaged communities across the state to conduct urban tree inventories and develop EAB management plans to proactively manage this pest. Early planning has enabled communities to minimize management costs, protect urban environments, and preserve the community value of their trees. The state has also developed a cost-share program with US Forest Service funding to help communities, such as Thurmont, begin treating their ash trees. To date, 27 towns and counties across Maryland have undertaken early inventory and response efforts, and over 2,000 ash trees have been protected through the state’s cost-share program.

For more information, contact:

Marian Honeczy
Supervisor, Urban & Community Forestry
Maryland Department of Natural Resources- Forest Service
580 Taylor Avenue, E-1
Annapolis, Maryland 21401
(410) 260-8511