Icy sidewalks more unsafe than Mulberries


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Dear Village Board, Oak Park Forestry Commission, and Members of the Board of School District 97:

As I was taking my morning walk this morning, Wednesday, December 1, I was mulling over both the letter sent by Supt. Fagan on November 30 to Mann School neighbors and the treacherous, ice-covered sidewalks. I dwelled on Supt. Fagan's remarks that the trees around the Mann School parking lot had to be removed because they were a "nuisance" and a "safety hazard." I assume he refers to the mulberry trees among the various other tree species. I note that the mulberry berries drop in July, when school is out?#34;they provide no nuisance to teachers' cars or safety hazard to school children. 

On the other hand, I noted this morning that the children were either slipping and falling on the ice-covered sidewalks or taking their lives in their hands by walking in the streets, Woodbine and Berkshire, where salt and traffic had made the streets ice-free. If Supt. Fagan can hide behind "life safety" to cut down trees around a parking lot, why doesn't he get his staff out to put salt on all the sidewalks surrounding the schools? This Kafkaesque behavior must stop. 

We residents of Mann School want our trees. Furthermore, Supt. Fagan is trying to mollify the neighbors with an ad hoc "landscaping plan." This includes shrubbery. No sensible administration would plant bushes on a school lot where criminals can lurk.

As far as Supt. Fagan's comments that District 97 is attentive to community concerns, I can remind you of the public address sound system that was installed 2 or 3 years ago at Mann School. This loudspeaker blares out 5 to 10 times daily from the back of Mann School, to be heard for blocks around, disturbing our days by telling such and such a teacher or student to come to the office. Supt. Fagan could truly show his concern

to the Mann School community by leaving the trees alone, and allowing the neighbors of Mann School to enjoy their trees, for their shade, their fruit, their ecology, and just for the sake of their being beautiful lovely trees in Oak Park.

I join with my neighbors in asking the village board and the Forestry Commission to preserve our landscape and local environment, both because it is the right thing to do and under the recently signed intergovernmental agreement. By this agreement, the village assumes responsibility for maintenance of the parks adjacent to the school buildings. This is our Tree City, and it is your Tree City. Please take action to preserve our trees.
Patricia Cayo-Tagamoto
Oak Park

Village should intercede on behalf of trees
I would not like to see the Mann School trees cut down. Superintendent Fagan sent a letter to Mann parents giving his reason for wanting to cut down the trees. It is based on the idea that the trees are a nuisance and a safety hazard. But he ignores the fact that mulberry trees drop their berries in July when school is over. Also, talking about a safety hazard, District 97 wants to plant chock berry and lilac bushes where the trees are. They grow to eight feet in height. This is a safety hazard for the children!

Superintendent Fagan didn't mention that it's going to cost $5,000 to $6,000 in taxpayer money, with nothing to do with the children's education. Recently, District 97 signed an agreement with the Village of Oak Park in which the responsibility for maintenance of the park lands next to the schools is turned over to the village. I ask the village board and the Forestry Commission to intercede and save the trees.
Caralina Sara Viacenzi
Oak Park


D97 should spend money on education, not bushes
We've been following the plans to cut down trees at the Mann School parking lot with what has changed from mild interest to near outrage. These are the facts as we see them, as Mann area residents.

District 97 wants to cut down mulberry, ash, and Oak trees at the Mann School teacher parking lot, despite opposition by dozens of Mann area residents who value the trees for their shade, ambience, and the nutritional and medicinal value of mulberries from the mulberry trees. District 97 says the school children trek the berry juice into Mann School and destroy the carpets, but there are no carpets in Mann School and the berries appear only in July. District 97 says the trees are damaging planted trees, but only one planted tree is near the others trees, it is in clear sunlight, and the branches of the "offensive" trees have been pruned away. District 97 wants to plant 7-8 foot high bushes next to the playground instead of the trees. This will bring the school children into harm's way. Meanwhile, the Village of Oak Park gave money to School District 97, violating the tax caps and diverting this money from true municipal departments, so that District 97 can avoid another tax referendum in 2005. Now, District 97 has announced it will have to spend $6,000 to cut down the trees and put in the bushes.

Are we the crazy ones? What is happening to "Tree City, U.S.A."? What is happening to "accountability"? Save the trees for those of us who enjoy them. Use your resources in the classrooms.
Linda and Brian Kenelley
Oak Park


The last thing a playground needs is shrubbery
Permit me to respond to an article published last week in the Chicago Tribune. It referred to the plan by school District 97 to cut down a number of trees around the Mann School parking lot, despite apparently organized and passionate opposition by neighbors.

These are my feelings. First, with the budgetary problems that the district faces, according to your paper, how can they justify spending thousands of dollars to cut down trees around a parking lot? Second, the spokesperson for the school district claims that the trees need to be removed because they are "slippery." Well, mulberry trees drop their berries in July, well after school is over.  

Besides, if the school district is concerned about the safety hazard of slipping, they should clear all the sidewalks of wet leaves the first two weeks of autumn! That simply shows how ridiculous their argument is.  

The spokesperson also says that the trees "thin out" in fall. Of course they do, they're trees! Third, the spokesperson describes their plan for replacement landscaping. This includes one tree and some shrubbery.  

As a parent, the last thing I want near a school playground is shrubbery. To me this lack of understanding indicates that no real plan exists, and that the school district simply wants to cut down the trees.  

I join with my neighbors in voicing opposition to this. The trees provide joy and atmosphere to our neighborhood. Please don't remove the trees.
Rachel Holland
Oak Park

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