DANVILLE — It’s not just leaves falling off the trees downtown this autumn. City workers are cutting down several trees in the downtown area due to infestation by the emerald ash borer.

The insect has threatened the ash tree population in the area for several years.

Steve Lane, community improvement superintendent with the city, said there are 48 trees downtown in the first two blocks of Vermilion Street between the Vermilion County Courthouse and the Fischer Theatre.

“Twenty-one of them are ash,” Lane said.

The city is cutting down some of those trees because the emerald ash borer has killed them.

In 2011, the Illinois Department of Agriculture had confirmed some trees were infested by the insect in the area.

The emerald ash borer is a small, metallic-green beetle that is native to Asia. Its larvae burrow into the bark of ash trees, causing the trees to starve and eventually die. While the beetle does not pose any direct risk to public health, it threatens the tree population.

Before June 2002, the beetle had reportedly never been found in North America. It has now killed tens of millions of ash trees.

“(The trees) are getting brittle and are in varying degrees of dying. Some are completely dead …,” Lane said of the affected downtown Danville ash trees.

He said with recent strong winds, one of the tops of the trees broke off.

He said officials want to be a little pro-active due to the pedestrian traffic and parked cars downtown.

“There’s still going to be over half of the trees that still remain,” Lane added, saying luckily they weren’t all ash trees that had been planted downtown.

City officials still are trying to determine Christmas decorations downtown.

“We’ll try to light some of the (remaining) trees,” he said.

Earlier this year, the city received assistance to create a tree inventory of trees in city parks and on public property from AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) members. They were in the city for seven weeks of service work.

The team members identified the trees, measured them, rated them as to their health condition and structure condition and identified problems such as if a tree was blocking the view of a stop sign, impeding a sidewalk or interfering with utility lines.

The city has data on 6,878 trees. The public tree inventory can be found on the city’s website at www.cityofdanville.org.