A Linden tree at Euclid and Ontario wasn't so lucky. Courtesy Gary Johnson

The following conversation was recently overheard between two saplings standing side-by-side in a tree nursery just west of Chicago.

SWAMP WHITE OAK SAPLING Quercus bicolor (hysterical): Quick! Droop your branches! Wilt your leaves! Stoop, man, stoop!

LITTLELEAF LINDEN SAPLING Tilia cordata (looking around): Whuzup? Who’s comin’?

OAK (stage whisper): Hear them footsteps? It’s the Oak Park forester. He’s taggin’ trees! You don’t wanna end up one o’ his street trees.

LINDEN (straightening): Why, I’d be honored to set down roots in …

OAK (rustling): Naw ya wouldn’t! C’mon, look sick!

LINDEN (holding limb over heart): Tree City USA, Hemingway, Wright, all things liberal? Why not there?

OAK (hissing): Cause they butcher their trees!

LINDEN (shrinking): Oh, yeah, I mighta heard that.

OAK: Sure. Back in 2000 this same forester guy hired a low-bid contractor with no experience to prune Oak Park’s urban forest.

LINDEN: It’s comin’ back to me.

OAK: Tree-by-tree, block-by-block the contractor hacked off branches 20 and more feet above the street. Mature trees, too!

LINDEN: Ain’t national pruning standards like 15 feet, tops?

OAK: Correct. Still, they cut a swath from Austin to past Oak Park Avenue, Madison to the Green Line till they were stopped. Residents ponied up a study by a past president of the state’s Arborist Association, who called the pruning “too severe.” And get this: the village even paid another arborist (internationally known) to give lessons to the contractor’s pruners.

LINDEN: You mean after the fact?

OAK: Precisely. Lots played out in the local papers, including the Tribune. Google: Citizens Tree Rescue. It’s all there. Even the guy’s study. And this season they’re at it again. After years of following the rules. Whackin’ helpless street trees.

LINDEN: Who is?

OAK: Either the forester hired another lousy contractor or it’s the village crews. Y’never know with this guy. Why, he’s even convinced the town to plant less trees.

LINDEN (aghast): What? Ain’t he heard of global warmin’?

OAK (panicked): Look out! Here he comes! Drop your leaves! Pretend you’re dead! Trust me! You don’t wanna go there!

Gary Johnson

Oak Park resident

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