Oak Park is looking at upping the amount it spends on planting saplings each year, as a way to negate all the trees that were damaged during thunderstorms this past summer.

Wicked winds and raging rains shot through Oak Park in June and July. And those storms caused damage severe enough that it led to the immediate removal of 34 trees across the community, according to Jim Semelka, village forester. Another 30 or so have been removed in the ensuing months, as the damage sustained from those storms became more obvious.

So, the Department of Public Works is proposing that Oak Park up the amount it spends in 2011 for planting new trees by $50,000, up to $150,000, said Public Works Director John Wielebnicki. About $25,000 of that would likely go toward increased watering, while the rest would be used to buy an extra 100 saplings.

Oak Park does two tree plantings each year, in the spring and the fall. Semelka anticipates that the extra trees would be planted in the spring, when a wider variety of species are available from which to choose.

“To get the diversity we want, we’re going to have to go heavier in the spring,” Semelka said.

Overall, Oak Park has removed 350 trees from the public parkway (between the sidewalk and the curb) so far this year, which puts it on pace for an average year of 400 removals. That’s relatively small, Semelka said, when viewed in the totality of 19,000 trees the village has on public properties, not including parks or schools.

Semelka said 147 of the uprooted were elms, 37 Norway maples, 33 ash, 22 hackberries and 22 lindens. The forester said he’s wrapping up visits to tree nurseries this week, as Oak Park figures out what types of trees it wants to plant in November. Ideally, the best trees grow fast, provide shade and are resistant to pests and disease. Some of those include oak, sycamore and black locust.

But most of those trees can only be planted in the spring, which is why Oak Park plans to switch the balance to where more trees are planted in the spring next year. There are an estimated 500 spots on the public parkway where a tree could be planted — meaning that there’s about 50 feet in each direction before the next tree, or 35 feet if planting smaller, “ornamental” types.

“If we had 19,000 trees, and 500 spots, you’re talking about 98 percent of Oak Park being fully stocked,” Semelka said. “So, I think that’s a pretty low number.”

Wielebnicki stressed that the increased tree budget in 2011 is only a proposal, and will need to be discussed by the village board in the coming weeks.

CONTACT: mstempniak@wjinc.com%uFEFF

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