Urban Forestry Plan for 2021 in Park Forest Announced

Rob Gunther spoke about the Village's urban forestry plan.
Rob Gunther, Park Forest Director of Recreation, Parks & Community Health. (VOPF)

Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- The Village of Park Forest is in the process of finalizing its urban forestry maintenance plan with contracts awarded to Homer Tree Care of Lockport and Winkler’s Tree & Landscape of La Grange Park pending final board approval at the July 19 board meeting.

An urban forestry plan is multi-faceted: The village budgeted $80,000 for fiscal year 2021-2022 for the removal, pruning and replacement of trees in village parks and on public parkways.  Homer Tree will care for tree removal while Winkler will handle pruning, bolting and cabling, and other work.

According to Rob Gunther, Park Forest Director of Recreation, Parks & Community Health, a list of needed tree removals and pruning is compiled by the village throughout the year and periodically given to the contractors so that work is concentrated in one geographic area before moving on to the next.  This list comprises both trees identified by the village, as well as trees brought to their attention by residents. A majority of the work this year will be focused on parkway trees as they typically incur more damage from wind, road salt, and damage from vehicles.

Over the past years, the village has dealt with the loss of many trees due to Dutch Elm disease and the Emerald Ash Borer, but recently increased its focus on pruning rather than tree removal.  However, recently the number of maple trees requiring removal has increased, most likely due to a combination of the environmental stress brought about by the extreme climate changes during the summer, and that maple trees in urban settings simply do not live as long as those in more rural areas.  Since 2014, 638 trees have been removed, not counting an additional 531 from the Emerald Ash Borer infestation. 

Does the village replace trees? Of course. During the same period noted above, 305 new trees were planted.

Through a $20,000 federal grant administered by the Morton Arboretum, and matched by the village, a two-year tree inventory and planning effort is underway.  Gunther says that this effort will allow the village to have a comprehensive analysis of the state of the village trees and assist in developing a strategic plan for forestry maintenance as well as possibilities for new tree locations.

In addition to the grant from the Arboretum, the village is also the recipient of new trees from the Openlands organization whose focus is urban conservation in the greater Chicago region.  Typically, Park Forest receives ten to thirty trees each year at no charge.

Gunther notes that the village’s urban forest is a considered a key asset which is beneficial to the environment and the community as whole. The trees not only save energy by reducing surface temperatures and shading buildings, but they intercept storm water, reduce flooding, and remove pollutants from the air.  Property values also typically increase as prospective home buyers prefer lots with trees and shade.

To put the felled trees to the best possible use, the village recently purchased a small sawmill to produce timbers and planks for use elsewhere in the village.  These planks have been used to form the landscaping beds at the Aqua Center and boards for park benches.  Gunther estimates that this effort has saved the village six to ten thousand dollars.

While the village has no direct responsibility for the upkeep of trees on private property (other than trees on the parkway), the certified village arborist, Todd Cann, is available to consult with residents if they have questions regarding the health or viability of a tree.  Cann typically does 50 to 70 such consultations each year.  If tree services are needed, the village does maintain a list of companies who perform such work in the area, although they do not recommend any particular firm.  Gunther stresses that one of the most important things to request from a prospective tree service company is proof that they are fully insured.

Gunther requests that the residents contact his department (708-748-2005) with questions or concerns about a tree in their parkway or in a park so that an inspection can be conducted and, if needed, remedial action taken.