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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — The city is beginning a massive project to remove thousands of trees and plant new ones.

Overland Park crews started the project Monday in a neighborhood near 83rd and Nall. City contractors plan to remove more than 2,400 ash trees along city streets in a dozen areas across the city over the next three months.

While leaders say the targeted trees make up nearly 25% of all trees in Overland Park, they also say removing them has to be done. The city predicts the emerald ash borer will eventually kill the majority of the trees.

“While we never want to cut down a tree, we know this is a more efficient way to solve an inevitable problem,” Bailey Patterson, City Forester, said. “The good news is that we’ll be replanting a more resilient species for every tree we take out.” 

Until now, city crews removed ash trees upon request. They removed about 500 trees a year.

“When you start seeing the trees deteriorate, they drop branches, they drop sticks. Then ultimately you could have damage in a storm and fall on cars and people. So it’s not only an aesthetic issue it’s a safe issue as well,” Meg Ralph, Overland Park communications manager, said.

Without this large-scale program, it would take the city more than 15 years to remove all of the remaining ash trees that line public streets. With this program, they will be removed in a matter of weeks.

“Probably for the last decade it’s been dying and usually during a storm several limbs will fall and I just pick them up,” Overland Park homeowner Jamie Drakey said.

The removal and replacement program is only for trees in the public right-of-way, adjacent to the City street. Property owners are responsible for tree maintenance on private property.

“We got to a spot a year or two ago where we really couldn’t keep up with the requests,” Ralph said.

Replanting trees will not happen immediately. That process will begin this fall when it isn’t as hot for the trees.

Property owners who would like to see the areas that will be impacted can view the map on Overland Park’s city website.