The Journal’s recent articles about Oak Park becoming a municipal arboretum sounded optimistic for the 21,000 trees on village parkways and in village parks. What an honor and what positive publicity for the village. 

My fear, however, is that the new designation will just boost public relations and actually do nothing to protect our public trees.

I became a “tree hugger” four years ago during that pruning cycle. A crew from our forestry department vastly over-pruned several trees on my block. Challenging them was hopeless, once the damage was done.

This year the same thing was about to happen. When the notices were posted, I called ahead to the village forester, who sent over a representative from his office. That didn’t help much on my end of the block, and it did nothing to prevent a huge pruning of the heritage elms down the block. So much for this summer’s shade.

I know this kind of thing was happening elsewhere in the village. You can see the cut marks on many of our parkway trees. Earlier advocates for reform of the forestry program have referred to the Oak Park style of pruning as creating lollipop trees, which look like they were drawn by Dr. Seuss. Instead of looking like an arboretum, we look like a topiary garden.

Subsequent to this year’s pruning cycle, I learned a couple of things that need to be remedied. One is that our village forester is not overseen by a viable forestry commission made up of professional arborists and other knowledgeable citizens. And I learned that the pruning this year was done by an outside contractor who does not specialize in municipal street tree-pruning on this scale and who had to sub-contract some of the work because they didn’t have sufficient staff. Our former village forester now works for one of the contractors.

Who monitors the training in our own forestry department? Who can vouch for the professional qualifications of outside contractors? How can we learn what constitutes pruning that actually improves the life of our trees? Would the Morton Arboretum allow our forestry department and its agents to work out there? I hope not.

Our situation is not recent. For reporting on earlier responses in Oak Park, check out online Citizens Tree Rescue. Nor is our situation limited. Check out Save Berwyn Trees. Both sites contain photos that will look all too familiar to Oak Parkers. Send your own photos to the village manager and board.

An arboretum designation is one thing. Becoming a real one is quite another.

Bob Trezevant

Oak Park

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