Oak Park residents strolling through their neighborhoods have noticed the messages written on tree stumps through the village for years.
The shaky handwriting on stumps of trees removed from public parkways can at times be difficult to read. The messages usually state the species and estimated age of the tree and criticize its removal.
The message on one stump near the corner of Pleasant Street and South Kenilworth Avenue states: "? Who culls a perfectly healthy and structurally safe tree, even when patriotically protected from Emerald Ash Borer. Critically endangered species. American Ash 36 yo."
The cryptic message is the work of Elmwood Park resident Scott Carlini, who has traveled the village by bicycle and foot for roughly six years, voicing his concern on stumps about the removal of trees infested with the emerald ash borer, an invasive Asian beetle that feeds on and destroys ash trees.
Carlini often goes by the pseudonym Scottie AshTree Seed, a play on the name Johnny Appleseed, he says, and sometimes online by Scott Concertman.
His work with trees doesn't stop with marking them up once they've been removed by the village of Oak Park. Carlini often speaks with residents who live near the endangered ash trees, promising them their trees can be saved with his method of applying annual doses of pesticides.
"I understand that you can't save them all, but we can save a few of the best ones," he told Wednesday Journal.
This has created headaches for Oak Park Forester Rob Sproule, who said when the village removes an infected ash tree from the public parkway, residents often tell them they have paid Carlini to control the infestation with pesticides.
Sproule said he's spoken to Carlini multiple times over the years about the removal program for ash trees.
While Sproule acknowledges that Carlini knows a lot about trees, particularly ash trees, he said, "He is not a licensed contractor and doesn't have a pesticide license."
Sproule said the license is required to administer commercial pesticide.
The forester said residents have told them Carlini takes just enough money to pay the cost of the pesticide, and some trees he's treated have been left up after residents objected when village crews arrived.
"It puts me in a tough spot with the resident," Sproule said, noting that once an ash tree is infested with emerald ash borer beetles, it's only a matter of time before the tree will have to be cut down.
Sproule said all of the ash trees in Oak Park will ultimately have to be removed, but that the village waits until trees are infested, unlike other municipalities, which cut the trees down while they are still healthy.
Carlini's effort "comes from a good place, but it's not really helping facilitate a meaningful conversation," Sproule said.
Sproule said that since 2008, the village has removed roughly 2,800 infested ash trees. Only a couple hundred remain, but they will ultimately have to be removed and replaced, he said.
"Sometimes we get accused of removing trees that are healthy," Sproule said.
But he added that infested ash trees can be hazardous, causing branches to die and break off. If the village waits too long, those dead branches could fall and injure people and property, he said.
Carlini says the jury's still out on whether infested ash trees can be saved, noting that arborists throughout the country signed a letter in 2011 arguing that ash trees can be saved with certain pesticides approved by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Carlini said River Forest has treated some 300 trees using the pesticide method, but River Forest Forester Mark Giannopoulos could not be reached for comment.
Sproule said Oak Park is in the process of its 2017 tree removal and replacement program and will plant roughly 600 new trees this year. They will remove roughly 600 to 800 trees, he said.
The village currently has between 18,000 and 19,000 trees in the public way, Sproule said.
"Right now the plan for this year is 365 [new trees planted] this spring," he said, noting the planting begins sometime this week.
A second planting of roughly 200 trees will take place in the fall, Sproule said.
"When it comes back to Scott, I want to reiterate on the record that we appreciate his concern and understand where it comes from," Sproule said. "It comes from the same place we come from because we're tree guys, but the information he provides isn't always accurate.
"It leads to confusion and doesn't facilitate a meaningful conversation about the urban forest."
Answer Book 2017
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