On June 22, a standing-room-only crowd of Evanston residents packed the Locust conference room at the Levy Center, 300 Dodge Ave. to attend the Tree Summit: Saving Evanston’s Urban Forests. This event was cosponsored by the City of Evanston’s Parks/Forestry Division and the Openlands Branch of Evanston TreeKeepers.
The City panel included Wally Bobkiewicz, City Manager (moderator); Paul D’Agostino, Superintendent of Parks/Forestry; Kelsey Atkinson, Tree Outreach Coordinator for Parks/Forestry; and Ann Rainey, Alderman of the 8th Ward. The Forestry panel included Wendy Pollock, Evanston TreeKeeper; Daniella Pereira, Regional Forester of Openlands; and Lydia Scott, Community Trees Program Manager of Morton Arboretum.
Special guest Joe Stark, director of Facilities Management of Presence Saint Francis Hospital spoke about the hospital’s tree-planting efforts.
Mr. D’Agostino presented an overview of Evanston’s tree population, using language and a format that the many non-experts in the crowd seemed to follow easily.
In 1999 the City of Evanston created a policy that any tree species comprising more than 10 percent of the City’s tree population would no longer be planted on public property. The following year, Parks/Forestry completed an inventory of the trees in the City. After the inventory, the City removed several common species, such as maples, lindens and honey locusts, from its “approved” list and expanded the approved variety of trees to 46, most of them native species. The “approved” species list can be found on the City’s web site under the forestry section.
No new ash trees have been planted on public property here since 1999.
The Emerald Ash Borer
Mr. D’Agostino said Parks/Forestry is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Forestry Department, to help stop the spread of emerald ash borer (EAB), one of the latest and most virulent tree-destroying pests.
The EAB came from Asia in the early 1990s, but it was not identified positively until 2002. Mr. D’Agostino said the EAB has spread to 12 states.
The City’s website states that Evanston has more than 4,000 ash trees on its parkways and in its parks, which is about 12 percent of the City’s 33,000 public trees. Additionally, there are thousands of ash trees on private property in Evanston. In 2006, it was confirmed that the EAB had come to Evanston. Mr. D’Agostino said that the City tracks every public tree that has been trimmed, removed or planted. In 2010, 800 trees were affected by the EAB and by 2011, every neighborhood in Evanston was affected.
Dutch Elm Disease
For decades the City has fought to control the spread of Dutch elm disease (DED). In 2012, Evanston was designated for the 28th year as a Tree City USA, partially in recognition for its aggressive control measures against DED.
The sponsors discussed the benefits trees provides, such as taking carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, providing shade and creating habitats for birds and a variety of wildlife. In addition, they said, storm water that would ordinarily flood streets and basements (except in torrential rains such as the one in late April) is absorbed by tree roots and naturally cleaned in the process. Trees also muffle traffic noise and filter out pollutants in the air.
The Evanston TreeKeepers urged the audience to help care for trees on public lands. Twice yearly TreeKeeper courses teach would-be volunteers to prune and mulch and to identify tree species and tree diseases.
The Tree Summit offered Evanston residents valuable information in hopes of spreading awareness about the urban forest.
Sources: Interested persons can obtain additional information as follows:
Treekeepers: email@example.com Parks/Forestry Division: 311 or forestry@cityof Evanston.org City’s Dutch elm disease insurance program: cityofevanston.org, 311 or 847-311-4311. EAB: www.emeraldashborer.info