The Emerald Lake State Park will hold a nature walk to kick off Ash Awareness week. The walk will be led by Bennington County Forester Kyle Mason, and the
The Emerald Lake State Park will hold a nature walk to kick off Ash Awareness week. The walk will be led by Bennington County Forester Kyle Mason, and the group will look for and identify ash trees and enjoy the spring weather. (Holly Pelczynski/Bennington Banner/photos.benningtonbanner.com)

BENNINGTON -- For those not sure what an ash tree looks like, or how many of them are out there, there will be an opportunity to learn on Sunday, the beginning of Ash Tree Awareness Week.

Bennington County Forester Kyle Mason will be leading a walk from 10 a.m. to noon at Emerald Lake State Park in East Dorset, showing people how to identify ash trees and give them a sense of the role they play in the forest. The walk is free and no pre-registration is required.

Officials believe the ash tree is not long for this part of the world, as the invasive emerald ash borer has killed millions of ash trees from Michigan to Canada. While it has not been found in Vermont, the shiny green insect has been found in all surrounding states. Mason said the insect is a capable flier, but infestations tend to center around campgrounds and places where humans move firewood.

Part of the awareness week's goal is to make the public more cautious about what they take in and out of forest areas so invasive species such as the emerald ash borer, a native of Asia, will spread more slowly.

Mason said those who want to go on the walk should meet at the maintenance shop by the park entrance. According to the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation it is at 65 Emerald Lake Lane in East Dorset.

There is a main trail with a number of side trails that Mason said he plans to take people along depending on what the group is up for.

Every county except Washington County has a walk scheduled, said Caitlin Cusack, of the University of Vermont Extension. A full list can be found at www.vtinvasives.org/ashawarenessweek.

She said the UVM Extension had partnered with the Vermont parks department, the U.S. Forest Service, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, and United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to host the walks.

Cusack said in a release that Vermont has 160 million ash trees. The strong, flexible nature of the wood makes it ideal for tool handles, baseball bats, hockey sticks, snowshoes, and dog sleds. Many birds eat the seeds, while others such as woodpeckers, owls, and wood ducks use ash tree hollows for nests.

Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at kwhitcomb@benningtonbanner.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.