Even as Boulder County foresters press on in their fight against the invasive emerald ash borer harming the local tree population, officials acknowledge it is a losing battle.

But it is one lovers of ash trees don’t have to walk away from empty-handed, even as sickened trees are in line for removal or have already been sawed to stave off the infestation.

Woodworkers like Evan Kinsley, who several years ago started the Boulder-based business Sustainable Arbor Works, have turned to ash trees to supply their furniture and art crafting practices as a way to maintain the local benefit provided by the species slated for a countywide death at the hands of the insect. Emerald ash borer has already dramatically altered the composition of forests across the middle and eastern regions of the country.

Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer

Levi Coleman, of the Colorado Department of Agriculture, introduces small wasps, tetrastichus planipennisi, into an emerald ash borer population at the Mayhoffer Singletree trail in Superior on July 18.

“It’s a privilege to be able to work with a local hardwood like ash,” Kinsely said.

When he first learned of the 2013 detection of emerald ash borer in Boulder — it has since spread to Longmont, Lafayette, Lyons and Superior, but until last month, when it was first detected in Broomfield, Boulder County remained the only area in the Mountain West with a confirmed presence — Kinsley and his now-business partner Aaron Taddiken looked at each other and said, “We have to do something.”

The solution was to build a wood kiln to speed up the drying process for felled trees, and now Kinsely focuses on harvesting trees removed from the urban landscape, a large proportion of which are ash due to the pesky beetle’s invasion, and reusing them for wholesale lumber slabs and designing and building custom furniture.

“It used to be most of this time, that a lot of woodworkers got their wood from big wood suppliers. That would come from all over the country, all over the world,” Kinsley said. “It’s not a new thing to use local lumber. But it was a new idea for smaller woodworkers, smaller lumber mills to start working with tree (removal) companies.”

Supporting Kinsley’s living is not the life cycle he prefers for the trees, but he feels he is making the best out of a bad situation.

“The thing with emerald ash borer, as a woodworker, a tree guy, we love trees. To see a bunch of trees die from an invasive species is not what any of us want to see,” Kinsley said. “We do our best to protect that resource. In the same respect, when a tree dies, it’s worthless if it goes to waste. As far as dense wood like ash, which a lot of furniture and buildings are made of, we’re just doing our best to make use of that resource.”

Plus, knowing a beloved ash will be transformed into a product that could be used by the tree’s former owner or someone else in the Boulder County area as furniture or otherwise eases the emotional burden faced during removals.

“Some clients will get a tree removed from their front yard, they make furniture out of that tree, it becomes a dining table in their kitchen. They get to live with that tree in a different way,” Kinsley said.

Boulder’s city government also has seized the opportunity presented by an abundant ash wood supply in recent years. The city’s BLDG 61 program, which offers a variety of technology and craft guidance to participants through the Boulder Library’s Makerspace, is almost exclusively using ash in the wood shop classes.

Participants in the program just built a display case located outside the Canyon Theater in the main Boulder Library branch, and have plans to build bookcases for the library’s used bookstore, city spokesperson Denise White said.



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