Perhaps you’ve noticed long stretches of parkway, devoid of all but some scraggly grass and the occasional piece of litter. Perhaps your scalp has been sunburned as you walked around the village. Perhaps your dog has to make a beeline for a lamp post, parking sign, fire hydrant, or cable box, since one or more of these is closer to your house than a tree is.

Perhaps you should get used these circumstances.

The superintendent of Oak Park’s forestry department, Jim Semelka, is proposing significant changes to our tree-planting standards. His plan involves much wider spacing between trees than we have ever had. This means that the number of trees on parkways will continue to diminish, since many of the trees removed won’t be replaced.

The benefits of trees are oft enumerated. They reduce energy costs for homeowners, add value to property, provide habitat for wildlife, sequester pollution, mitigate effects of climate change, and provide beauty. Moreover, studies have shown that plantings and greenery help to lower crime. But there is a downside to trees: It costs money to purchase, plant and maintain them.

Mr. Semelka reasons that each tree will grow into a more aesthetically pleasing shape if it’s nowhere near another tree. If the primary ambition were the well-being of a small number of specimen trees, I might agree with his proposal. But this is not the appropriate priority. Rather, the forestry department’s aim should be “leafiness.” We value our community for its many assets, not the least of which is its nature. We do not have a lot of park space, but we have had gorgeous tree-lined streetscapes.

Mr. Semelka argues that it’s “irresponsible” to future generations to “overplant.” I applaud his concern for our successors, but it’s even more irresponsible to underplant. A tree can be removed in a couple of hours, whereas it takes a couple of decades to grow it. If we plant too few trees for future generations, what happens when the next scourge like Dutch elm disease or the emerald ash borer destroys a number of the trees that we did plant? Surely we do future generations no favors by bequeathing to them barren parkways. And I wonder what Mr. Semelka thinks of his colleagues in River Forest and Riverside – two lovely neighboring communities – since they plant much closer than he deems responsible.

Oak Park’s appeal depends in part upon its look. If we let our “urban forest” go away through changes to the planting protocol, we alter the look of our village more radically than we could do by virtually any other means.

The board meets Sept. 8 to decide on Mr. Semelka’s proposal.

Glynis Kinnan grew up in River Forest and has lived in Oak Park as an adult. She has seen Jim Semelka’s video and has attended a presentation by a consultant Semelka has worked with. This summer, she went on a tour guided by Semelka and a consultant.

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