Even tightropes looped around the tree can cause damage. (Photo from City of Evanston)

A 2019 City ordinance to protect parkway trees is taking precedence over some homeowners’ temporary playgrounds. Attachments to public trees, such as swings, ladders, and tightropes, are prohibited by City ordinance 15-0-19, approved by City Council two years ago, March 11, 2019.

The ordinance appears to clash with the desire of some homeowners to give their children a place for recreation while keeping them close during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have seen a dramatic increase in these types of [equipment] installed in City trees and we are trying to get a handle on it before there is an accident where the City may be liable,” said Michael Callahan, the City’s arborist/forestry supervisor, responding to questions from the RoundTable.

Tree with scar from rope (Photo from City of Evanston)

In a note to an alderman, Mr. Callahan wrote, “… while we are sensitive to the needs of the public there has been an increase of damage to City trees.”

Forestry Division crews trimming parkway trees earlier this month reported several swings, and the property owners were notified that the swings should be removed, he said. He also sent photos of the damage caused by some of the fasteners used for the swings.

The hook has been bored into the bark of the tree. (Photo from City of Evanston)

Mr. Callahan said when homeowners are notified of the violations, “we have had very good compliance. … While many may feel that this is excessive, I would like to point out that these items do impact the health of the trees. There is the additional situation where items may be attached to branches that are not capable of supporting a person and the branch may fail. We have seen damage to the trunk of the trees due to the pressure of the straps, excessive damage to the bark of the trees as well as excessive rubbing on branches from improper attachments. Metal lag bolts may be left in a branch after an item is removed and can pose a future hazard if the branch has to be removed and the bolt goes through a chipper.”

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...