On Sunday, May 21, at 1 p.m. Camden will hold its 23rd annual Arbor Day observance on the Camden Village Green, located on the corner of Elm and Chestnut streets. The event will be held rain or shine.

The celebration, which is open to the public, marks Camden's 22nd year qualifying as a Tree City USA.

This year's program focuses on the dire threat posed to Camden's ash trees by the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB).

Following a brief ceremony, including the reading of Camden's official Arbor Day proclamation, Camden arborist Douglas N. Johnson will train participants to identify ash trees and will describe measures Camden residents can take to protect their ash trees from EAB. He will lead a walking tour of the village's largest and most beautiful ash trees.

"We will visit Camden's largest ash — a 209-inch circumference white ash specimen on Sea Street, thought to the be largest tree of any species in the village," said Camden's Arbor Day coordinator and arborist Nancy Caudle-Johnson.

There are 16 native species of ash in the U.S. and dozens of commercially-available cultivars — all imperiled by the Emerald Ash Borer. The half-inch, green, invasive Asian beetle first identified in 2002 in Michigan has spread to several Canadian provinces and many states in the U.S., including lower New England (though not yet in Maine), and is responsible for the loss of millions of ash trees in North America.

Hidden from view, the beetle feeds on inner bark and phloem; by the time infestations are apparent, trees are seriously damaged. Ash in the traditional wood used for baseball bats, bow handles, tools, guitars, and is the historic material employed by Maine's native people in their beautiful baskets. Wildlife, including birds, butterflies, moths and arthropods are dependent upon its leaves and seeds. The disappearance of our country's ash trees will rival the loss of our American chestnuts and American elms, and will carry a huge cost — economic, ecological, and cultural.

Property owners who learn what to watch for can monitor their tees and contract an arborist if they note signs of stress (tip dieback, bark splits, woodpecker damage, or branches growing from the trunk). Steps can be taken by an arborist to preserve selected trees in the landscape.

The Camden Conservation Commission, which serves as Camden's tree board, is in the forefront of EAB efforts in the state. The Commission has begun an inventory of significant ash trees in the village — large and healthy older specimens and younger trees panted as part of the Camden Shade Tree Planting Program.

"When and if EAB arrives in Camden, our hope and plan is to treat these significant trees organically to prvent their mortality," said arborist Douglas Johnson.

Earlier this year, the Conservation Commission was awarded a $6,000 grant from Maine's Project Canopy to develop an EAB Management Plan, a first for the state.

Maine's official Arbor Week, the third full week in May, coincides with the state's tree planting season. The Arbor Day program is organized by Nancy Caudle-Johnson, Camden's Arbor Day and Tree City USA coordinator, and the Camden Conservation Commission which serves as Camden's Tree Board. For more information, call 236-6855.