Park Ridge buying $50k worth of trees
Over a hundred more trees will be added to the Park Ridge landscape this spring to supplant those lost to disease, weather and poor health.
The City Council voted to buy $50,000 worth of trees from River Grove-based Suburban Tree Consortium on Jan. 21.
Though $108,400 had been set aside for new planting in the current fiscal year, less than half is being used to increase Park Ridge’s shrinking inventory of trees.
In the fall, the City Council approved spending $20,000 for parkway tree planting, and transferring $30,000 to pad a depleted tree removal budget.
City Forester Tony Gliot cautioned that if city doesn’t keep up with planting, “it’s going to be ‘Parking Lot Ridge’ not Park Ridge.”
Right now, the city is only planting one tree for every three that are removed.
“We’re looking at a situation where our deficit of tree planning is going up daily,” Gliot said.
With the approved funds, the city could purchase 137 trees with a two-inch diameter, or 173 trees with a one-and-a-half-inch diameter.
Gliot said the money could go further if the city creates a 50/50 cost-sharing program with residents that would add even more trees.
Sixth Ward Ald. Marc Mazzuca, who voted against the proposal, took issue with city’s approach to maintaining its “urban forest,” saying enough wasn’t being done to preserve “legacy trees.”
“It seems to me the investment of saving those big elms that are striking and add to the character of this community, that is the investment we’d want to make,” he said on Jan. 14.
Gliot had agreed with Mazzuca’s assessment, but noted the top priorities for tree maintenance are removal, pruning, replanting and treatment, in that order.
“The city truly does need elm tree injection,” Gliot acknowledged. “The last few years it’s been disappointing to hammer a tag on trees (for removal).”
He said enough good evidence exists to suggest treatment reverses the effects or prevents the development of Dutch elm disease.
But the high success rate comes with a cost. Treating some of the city’s largest American elms can run as much as $500 per tree, Gliot said.
Treating ash trees infected by the emerald ash borer beetle, on the other hand, simply delays their demise, Gliot said. He added all of Park Ridge’s ash trees are, at some level, infested.
Director of Public Works Wayne Zingsheim said he could “promise” a funding request for treatment services as part of next year’s budget.
Mazzuca also added that while he agreed with using outside support to alleviate the planting’s cost, he didn’t want to fund the purchase of additional trees beyond the cost-sharing program.
“A better option exists than the one we have before us tonight,” he said on Jan. 21.
He noted that the city had other funding priorities to consider, namely, emergency equipment used by Fire Department paramedics.
The City Council had deferred approving the purchase of cardiac monitors/defibrillators on Jan. 14 in order to determine how to pay the $153,000 price tag for the new devices.
Mayor David Schmidt said the requests represented two separate matters and, thus, could not be adequately compared.
Schmidt said he considered tree planting to part of the city’s infrastructure, and that, if prompted, would use his veto power to ensure the work got done.
“Everyone knows how I love to cut funding but not when it comes to trees,” he said. “Delaying reforestation even just a few months is a terrible idea.”