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Appleton neighborhood residents gather to preserve beloved park

City will remove trees infected by emerald ash borer
Posted at 9:17 AM, Feb 10, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-10 10:17:18-05

APPLETON — A hidden gem tucked inside a neighborhood on the far north side of Appleton, it can be easy to miss Vosters Park.

For many residents in the neighborhood, the five-acre park, which is now infected with emerald ash borers, was the magnet that pulled many homeowners to the area.

"It was a huge factor in my wanting to move to that neighborhood, that park and those woods are a beautiful place and I had a very young child when I moved into that house, so it was a place where she loved to spend her time," said Sheri Hartzheim

Hartzheim lives a few houses down from the park and is the alderperson representing that area. She says residents were not happy with the original park plans at the January 25th meeting.

Residents demanded a say on the future of their park and helped organize the public input meeting with city officials Thursday evening.

"The hardest part was that the city believed that it was going to be a blank slate that they could start with and honestly, the neighbors weren't as impressed with that idea. They really wanted to have some input on the front end," Hartzheim.

The reason for the redesign is one all too familiar for many Wisconsinites. Mike Michlig is the Appleton city forester. He says that like many ash trees in the area, the trees along the trails and boardwalk have been ravaged by the invasive emerald ash borer.

"It's an insect that burrows into the trunk and then the larva kind of run around and eats and then it gradually kills the tree off," said Michlig.

He says that the city has dealt with the problem since 2015 and it would be expensive and difficult to treat the city's thousands of ash trees.

Dean Gazza is the city's parks director. He says that residents responded overwhelmingly to keeping the park wooded instead of starting from scratch with an open space.

"People are concerned, concerned about sustainability, the environment, nature, and we support that," said Gazza.

Gazza says that the goal is to have everything approved at a city council meeting on March 1st with construction starting shortly thereafter.

Planting of new trees and construction on trails to replace the boardwalk would happen during the spring and summer once the removal is complete.