Wanted: New trees in Joliet
By bob okon email@example.com April 17, 2013 9:48PM
Leroy Rakoski, president of the Glenwood Manor Homeowners Association, is concerned about the streetscape looking barren because of ash trees being taken down as seen along Homestead Place Wednesday, April 17, 2013, in Joliet. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 19, 2013 7:44AM
Joliet has taken down hundreds of infested ash trees, and it’s beginning to show.
Some residents and a couple of city council members are calling for a tree replacement program.
“It’s going to be barren looking,” said Lee Rakoski, president of the Glenwood Manor Homeowners Association.”
Work crews recently began cutting down ash trees in Glenwood Manor, as they have throughout the city, in the seemingly futile battle against the emerald ash borer, an Asian beetle that has been killing ash trees across the Midwest and beyond for several years.
Eighty-two ash trees have been removed in Glenwood Manor. The West Side subdivision consists of 32 blocks, and the loss of trees is changing the neighborhood, Rakoski said.
The enjoyable canopy effect from the trees is disappearing, he said, and he worries that birds and other creatures could go away, too.
“It’s going to look like a new subdivision with old houses,” Rakoski said, referring to the typical treeless look of newly built subdivisions.
But even in a relatively new subdivision such as Cumberland South on the city’s far West Side, the residents are getting restless about the loss of trees.
“There’s barely any trees left,” Cumberland South resident Richard Phares said. “They’re kind of desertizing the area.”
Residents who think the city is callously cutting down trees on their streets should note that Joliet has good credentials when it comes to a commitment to the value of trees in an urban landscape.
As Arbor Day approaches, Joliet is marking 22 consecutive years as a Tree City USA, a designation by the National Arbor Day Foundation to cities that invest a substantial amount of money, time and effort into planting and protecting trees.
Joliet has an arboretum and an arborist, holds a Big Tree Contest every year to recognize long-lasting trees and the people who care for them and has a Tree Board, which advises the city on matters concerning trees.
Also, Joliet holds an Arbor Day celebration at a local school. This year’s event is April 26 at Forest Park School.
City Arborist Jim Teiber said Joliet hopes to develop a tree replacement program, but the money is not available now. Joliet has sought grant money for tree replacement but without success so far.
“We all know the city is in hard times,” Teiber said. “We don’t have a lot of money. We all have to work together to see what we can do.”
He said he may seek help from corporations willing to donate trees to the city or a particular neighborhood. There is one such donor now — Chicagoland Speedway makes an annual tree contribution and gave 50 trees to Joliet in 2012.
Meanwhile, Teiber said, the city could consider a 50-50 replacement program in which Joliet would pay half the cost of a new parkway tree if the homeowner pays the other half.
Two city council members this week said it’s time for the city to begin investing in tree planting in the parkways again.
Councilman Robert O’Dekirk raised the issue at Tuesday’s council meeting, pointing to the numbers of ash trees being cut down in Glenwood Manor and other neighborhoods.
“We’re going to have neighborhoods that are going to be treeless after this,” O’Dekirk said.
Councilman Don Fisher, who gained a reputation as a tree enthusiast when he was planning director for the city, said he, too, believed Joliet needs a program for replacing ash trees.
In some subdivisions “there will be no trees for blocks,” Fisher said. “It will take time to reforest again.”