Rescue winter/spring 2001 campaign.
Nov. 2000 A&B Landscaping and Tree Service is awarded a contract to prune Oak Park parkway trees. It is the lowest bid by a substantial amount. A&B's price to prune 8-15 inch diameter trees is $19.00 a tree, compared to $25, $29, $39 and $60 for the other 4 bids. A & B did not furnish the required number of 4 references from other satisfied municipalities.
Jan. 2001 A&B begins severe pruning at Austin Blvd., between Madison St. and South Blvd., leaving deformed trees as it moves westward. Hundreds of complaints flood Village Hall and continue until the pruning is stopped in April.
Feb. 2001 Urgent requests by local landscape architects to meet with Public Works director Joe Euclide, to whom the forestry department reports, are ignored.
March 2001 A request to the Village board by residents for a moratorium on the pruning to assess the severity of the pruning is ignored. Residents confront the forester and contractor crews in the street, actions which play out in the press. Finally, the Village agrees to meet with residents and their representative, nationally-known urban forester Chuck Stewart.
A Village contractor, A&B Landscape and Tree Service of Riverside, Illinois, began pruning Oak Park's parkway trees in January 2001. On March 9, resident Kathryn Jonas met with Forester Jim Semelka to express concerns over the severity of the pruning that violated Village pruning standards east of East Avenue between Madison St. and South Blvd., which he defended as necessary. Meanwhile, repeated requests, since February, by other concerned residents, including landscape architect Carol Yetken, to meet with Semelka's supervisor, Public Works director Joe Euclide, were being ignored. The combination of these events and the urgency to halt the block-by-block severe pruning prompted this letter to the editor.
This essay appeared in the March 21, 2001, Oak Leaves in slightly different form:
is destroying trees' character
By Kathryn Jonas and Gary Johnson
TO THE VILLAGE OF OAK PARK PRESIDENT BARBARA FURLONG, TRUSTEES AND TRUSTEE CANDIDATES
Let it be known that there is a groundswell of discontent in the village over the current pruning of parkway trees. A Village contractor has been systematically stemming up trees twenty feet and higher, (the village specification is 14 feet) destroying their character by turning them into palm trees, and in some instances causing irrevocable damage. Professionals we have consulted say they are removing up to 50% of the foliage, which can significantly reduce the life span of a tree. In a matter of minutes, with their chain saws and pole pruners, they are destroying what has taken twenty-five years and more to grow.
We urge you to drive down the 200 S. block of Humphrey, the 100 S. block of Harvey or Elmwood or Scoville, for example, and see the destruction of once beautiful lindens, ginkgoes, ashes, oaks and hackberrys. (The area is bounded by Austin-Oak Park, South-Madison.) Get out of your car, take a walk, ring a few doorbells and talk to the residents, the taxpayers. There is a lot of anger and hurt, disbelief and dismay at was is happening. Take Carol Buer on Harvey Ave. She calls the pruning "ridiculous," "absurd," "tragic." She works in the Rehabilitation field. "And now I have to come home and look at stumps?" She says she's 48 years old and will never again in her life time see a mature healthy tree in east Oak Park.
Our gut reaction to blame the contractor changed after we talked to Village forester Jim Semelka, who defends his methods. Public works director Joe Euclide, Semelka's boss, turned down our request for a pruning moratorium. The forestry commission told us, "We'll get back to you in a month."
Last week, we invited certified arborist Chuck Stewart, a nationally respected urban forester with nearly 40 years experience in the forestry field, and who consults with the Arbor Day Foundation, to view our trees. He called the pruning job "pathetic," "horrible." Mr. Stewart rescued the Village from a tree pruning debacle 13 years ago at our urging, when a number of elms along Jackson Blvd. were felled into install a major water main.
Back then, it was citizen action that stopped that assault on our trees. Mr. Stewart says the natural form or our trees is being destroyed. The cutting off of all lower branches while leaving a carrot top of foliage actually invites storm damage. The skinning of all small branches leaving tufts at the tips (called "lions-tailing" in the industry) weakens limbs.
The severity of the pruning, he says, is something that would be done to trees on an eight or ten year pruning cycle, not a four year plan the Village cites as its goal. A second certified arborist, (who wishes to remain anonymous) told us the severe pruning has reduced the life span of our trees. What's left of the foliage will simply not be able to support the extensive root system.
In fact, the
village is violating four of the seven ANSI (American National Standards Institute)
A300 pruning Standards for Tree Care adopted by the Illinois Arborist Association,
the National Arborist Association, and the International Society of Arborists.
1) "To obtain the defined objective, the growth cycles and structure of the
individual species...should be considered."
2) "Not more than 25% of the foliage should be removed within an annual growing season...the percentage and distribution of foliage to be removed shall be adjusted to the plants species, age, health and site."
3) "Not more than 25% of a branch or limb should be removed when it is cut back to a lateral."
4) "...lion's tailing [skinning of all leaves and stems] shall be considered unacceptable pruning practices for trees."
How long can this misguided program proceed before everything is lost? To watch A & B Landscaping tear through an entire block in an afternoon, hacking away sometimes 50% of any given tree, is staggering. Is A & B qualified for the job? Why hasn't Oak Park adopted the pruning standards generally accepted in the industry? Why are the village specifications of 14 ft. clearance not being enforced?
For prospective, we urge you look at an area in Park Ridge were pruning has just been completed on a 6 year pruning cycle. (Between Devon-Touhy, Dee-Greenwood) The difference between what that village is doing and what Oak Park is doing is startling. The pruning cuts are scarcely noticeable, and they are carefully made to preserve the structure of the tree. You can quickly identify each of the species. They are not limbed up beyond recognition. The only place in Oak Park that looks like Park Ridge are the neighborhoods that have yet to be pruned!
Dear Village board president and trustees, realize that one-sixth of our trees have been chopped, skinned and disfigured, their health and vigor compromised. Therefore, we are petitioning you, our elected officials, to declare an immediate moratorium to evaluate the current pruning program by outside experts approved by concerned residents.
Journal, March 21, 2001
Wide lawns, narrow trees
by Rebecca Little
Members of the Citizens Tree Rescue are calling their trees "toothpicks," "palm trees," "telephone poles," and "amputees" since the village has stated pruning the parkway trees in the square between Austin Boulevard and Harlem Avenue, and South Boulevard and Madison Street.
Gary Johnson and Kathryn Jonas started the Citizens Tree Rescue when they heard their neighbors were also unhappy with the "hack job."
The village has hired A&B Landscape and Tree Service to prune the lower branches of all trees. No branches are to be below 16 feet or, in some cases up to 25 feet from the ground. The policy is uniform for all trees on the parkway.
"I am very concerned that the severity of the pruning is not only having a huge negative impact on the beauty of our streetscape, but most importantly, not consistent with accepted horticultural standards for parkway tree pruning," Jonas said.
Jonas and Johnson, who live on the 100 block of South East Avenue, have requested a moratorium on the pruning until an arborist can submit a report to the village.
Jonas attended a village Forestry Commission meeting last week to request the moratorium with village Forester Jim Semelka, Public Works Director Joe Euclide, and the trustees. "They said they would take it under consideration and get back to me in a month. In a month, it will be finished."
Euclide turned down the moratorium, but Jonas had a meeting with village president Barbara Furlong, Semelka and Euclide this morning. The result was not available at press time. Semelka drove around the neighborhood with Jonas, but he and Euclide maintain the contractor is pruning the trees acceptably and according to contract.
The village pruning specifications to remove limbs below 14 feet from ground level. The village is pruning more so that the contractors will not have to return in a long time.
"The whole rationale is that they haven't been pruned in a long time, so they must do a severe job," said Karen Heller, who works at Carol JH Yetken, Landscape Architects. "That's like saying I haven't had a haircut in a long time so I'm going to get a crew cut."
A&B is encountering angry and protesting residents as they proceed down the blocks. On March 19, worked rolled their trucks up to some of the oldest trees in the village, on the 100 and 200 blocks of South Euclid, hoping to trim branches.
"George Schneider of the 100 block of South Euclid called the workers "hired thugs."
"These guys must get paid for the number of woodchips they get," Schneider said sarcastically.
Leslie Wilson of the 200 block stated, "People choose to live here because of the forestry. I don't want to live in a concrete jungle. Wait until the leaves grow back and the neighbors see what they've got left."
The Citizens Tree Rescue has called in arborist Chuck Stewart, who called the job "pathetic." Stewart consulted for the village some 10 years ago during the uproar following the DuPage County water commission's extensive pruning of trees along Jackson Boulevard. That cutting was done to allow access for equipment necessary in constructing a huge water main connecting Lake Michigan to DuPage County.
"A lot of people are upset about this," Johnson said. "But the village heard 'tree hugger' and writes it off."
Landscape architect Carol Yetken has a meeting with Euclide next week to discuss what she calls "misshapen trees."
"I think they are pruning too much and to severely for these trees, particularly those that are younger, 25 to 30 years old. There seems to be an arbitrary principal that no matter what type of tree, size, width of the parkway, they are all cut to a certain height."
Yetken said lindens and maples have lower branches, and should not be cut to an elm standard.
The trees are left with a tuft of leaves at the top, which Johnson said is dangerous during storms, and there may not be enough leaves support the root system.
"I understand some pruning is necessary on the street side. But do trees have to be pruned up to 25 feet on the pedestrian side?" asked Carol Buer, a resident of the 200 block of South Harvey Avenue. "We all feel like dwarves now when we walk down the street."
"They are ignoring the ornamental aspects of trees, and losing the character of the individual trees," said Mark Finger, a landscape architect at Yetken's firm. "This is irreversible, it's blitzkrieg. We want so acknowledgment that this can't be an acceptable routine."
Tito Cantiliano of A&B Landscape & Tree Service had little to add.
"We are supposed to trim the trees up to 16 feet. The village is paying us to do this."
"Just drive around the neighborhood. See for yourself," Johnson said.
--Christopher Decker contributed to this report.
Leaves, March 21, 2001
Residents bark at OP over tree trimming
by Cheri Bentrup
Resident have been stepping up their efforts to thwart the village's tree-trimming by taking their concerns to the Oak Park Forestry Commission and gathering in the streets to stop the trimming.
Several resident on the 200 block of Euclid Avenue came out of their houses Monday morning to question the trimming methods of the village-hired contractor, A&B Landscaping Tree Service of Riverside.
"I've been watching it since they started butchering trees," Leslie Wilson said of the gingko tree in her parkway.
Neighbor Sandy Heitzman said she yelled at a tree-trimmer to get out of the linden in her parkway.
"There was no reason for him to be trimming up there," she said, noting that he was up high in the treetop. "This was a fortuitous day I was home late."
"I've never seen this kind of thing. I makes you wonder if they're getting paid by the truck," added neighbor Judy Shepelak.
Oak Park Forestry Supervisor Jim Semelka, who stood alongside residents Monday as crews trimmed parkway trees, maintains the trees are being trimmed properly.
"I understand their aesthetic concerns," Semelka said, "but I don't think they're taking too much off.
"The trees look stark after trimming because, Semelka said, crews are making up for years of missed pruning.
"I understand their concerns and I'm with them," said landscaping firm co-owner A. J. Ruska. "We're trying to catch up for years of (not) doing them. We're doing a structured pruning so in four years all we'll have to do is maintenance.
"It would behoove me to do less because it would go faster," Ruska said. "I am a lover of trees, too."
Crews have been trimming from South Boulevard to Madison Street, starting along Austin Boulevard and working their way west to Harlem. Early this week, they were on Euclid. Kathryn Jonas, a resident of the 100 block of South East Avenue, attended last week's Forestry Commission meeting and asked that tree trimming be stopped until the pruning standards could be reviewed.
"We look like we're in Florida; they look like palm trees," she said of the recent trimmed trees.
Jonas, who has worked in the landscaping industry for 17 years, thinks the excessive trimming could be endangering the trees' health.
"I think there are some valid concerns here," she added. Jonas was told the commission would take her comments under consideration and discuss them at their April meeting.
"Because of the situation, I'm requesting a response earlier than that," she said, noting that the trimming could be done by then.
On March 21, after nearly two months of stalling, and the severe pruning of some 50 square blocks of trees, the Village finally agreed to a meeting, as detailed by resident Kathryn Jonas in the summary below.
This summarizes my recollection of the matters discussed at the meeting, since no one was asked to take minutes.
of March 21, 2001, tree-pruning meeting at Oak Park Public Works with the following
Village President-Barbara Furlong
Village Trustee- Rick Kuner
Assistant Village Manager-Ray Wiggins
Public Works Director- Joe Euclide
Forestry Director- Jim Semelka
Forestry Employee- Pat Cassin
Residents: Mark Finger, landscape architect with Carol H. Yetken & Associates
Karen Heller, landscape architect with Carol H. Yetken & Associates
Mike Elsner- landscape architect with a Chicago firm
Kathryn Jonas- landscape manager with 17 years experience with the landscape/forestry industry
Chuck Stewart- Consulting Urban Forester with Arbor Day Foundation present at resident's request.
A meeting was held at 1:30 p.m. at Public Works at the request of several residents who have been concerned about the severity of the tree pruning done by the Village contractor, A&B Landscape and Tree Service, between Austin Blvd. west to Harlem Ave., between South Blvd. and Madison St.
Mark Finger and Karen Heller wondered why it had taken so long to get a meeting as Carol Yetken had requested on five weeks ago when she become aware of the severe pruning. Kathryn Jonas had previously met with both Jim Semelka, Joe Euclide and the Forestry Commission to request a temporary moratorium the pruning until the standards could be evaluated by an independent consultant, but was told that the pruning was being monitored by the Village and that it was being done correctly.
and professional landscape architects' specific concerns about the pruning were
| 1) The
trees are being limbed up so severely as to destroy the structural characteristics
of the different species.
2) All tree species are being pruned the same way and look like palm trees or lollipops. They are so misshapen that it is difficult to tell a linden from a maple, a hackberry or an elm.
3) Stemming up the trees so high (in many cases over 20-25 ft.) is wrong and irreversible, and is significantly higher than is necessary for vehicle clearance on the street side or pedestrian clearance on the sidewalk side.
4) Up to 50% of the canopy of the trees is being removed in many cases while the accepted pruning standards in the industry (ANSI A3000) state that no more than 25% of the foliage should be removed for the tree's health, and that removal should be adjusted for the plant's species, age and site, none of which is being adhered to.
move to Oak Park because it is an older community with mature trees, and the
severe pruning is destroying the beauty of the parkways that are part of the
quality of life in the Village. The shading and visual screening that has taken
twenty years to produce is being destroyed in a manner of minutes.
6) The practice of "lion's tailing," skinning a limb or branch of all side branches and twigs, leaving a tuft at the end is being done consistently, while this practice is specifically called out as being unacceptable in the standards.
The Village forestry department stated that the trees were being trimmed so severely because there hasn't been a consistent pruning program in the Village for years, so many of these trees haven't been trimmed for a long time.
Kathryn Jonas pointed out that the 800 block of Pleasant St. was pruned twice in the 10 years she lived there, and that pruning has been done throughout the Village over the last 17 she has lived here. Mike Elsner said that his parkway tree on Harvey was trimmed severely last year.
Mr. Semelka also said that the trees were being trimmed so severely because he is trying to get on a 4 year pruning cycle.
Chuck Stewart said that was a worthy goal, but that this should call for less severe pruning this time around if you are going to be back in 4 years.
Mr. Semelka also said that the Village employees prune all trees under 7" caliper in size, and that the Village responds to many individual requests by residents to have the parkway trees pruned in front of their houses. It was suggested by residents at the meeting that parkway trees are public spaces and that these trees should be pruned according to accepted industry standards to provide a consistent appearance on our parkways, and that custom trimming at a homeowner's request was not good policy.
The participants then walked along the 100 block of Scoville and Elmwood which have recently been pruned so that residents could point out their specific concerns. Chuck Stewart noted that the trees were being limbed up much higher than necessary for 14' clearance on a 4 year trimming cycle. He said that it didn't appear that the location of the tree (by a street light, at an intersection, width of parkway) was being considered when making cuts. He said that too many limbs were being removed for clearance and that clearance can be better accomplished by removing hanging branches, called under pruning, than by removing limbs from the trunk.
Mr. Stewart also said there should be more consistent thinning throughout the tree rather than cleaning out all lower branches. The meeting ended along the 100 block of East Ave. which had not yet been pruned, and Mr. Stewart gave specific examples of how the individual trees should be pruned, based on the species, age and location. Overall, he felt there were not too many clearance issues.
He noted younger trees under 7" caliper are also being stemmed up too high. He said that the lower branches on these trees that are not causing clearance problems should not be cut as they help make the tree stronger, and more storm resistant. Also, the younger trees should retain as much of their foliage as possible for the growth of the tree.
It was agreed that the tree trimmers would start at the 100-200 S. block of Grove St. the following day as scheduled, adjusting the pruning to take into account the above matters discussed, and that the Village and residents would look at the trees before the trimmers proceeded to the next block.
23 Kathryn Jonas sent a letter to Village Board President Barbara Furlong and
Village Manager Carl Swenson confirming the agreements arranged in the March
Mrs. Barbara Furlong, President, Village of Oak Park
Rick Kuner, Trustee, Village of Oak Park
Mrs. Barbara Ebner, Trustee Liaison to Public Works
Carl Swenson, Village Manager
RE: Street Tree Pruning
We appreciate some of you taking a walk with us on Wednesday (March 210 to look at the unfortunate results of Oak Park's current tree pruning program, with grossly incorrect pruning being done both by the Village in-house pruning and that being done by A & B Landscape. I think it was evident to everyone at the meeting (except A & B and our own forester) that the beauty and character of our parkways is being seriously and permanently compromised. We tried to two weeks to get a meeting with the Village while other like Carol Yetken and Carol Yetken & Associates tried for 5 weeks to get a meeting. The three local landscape architects who attended the meeting (Mark Finger, Karen Heller and Michael Elsen) very strongly voiced their concerns about the misshapened trees both from an aesthetic point of view and from their long term health. Chuck Stewart, the well respected national urban forester who rescued Oak Park from the Jackson Blvd. tree trimming debacle 12 years ago when a water main was installed, was shocked as to why so much of the trees was being removed on a 4 year cycle. Less, not more, gets removed on a four year cycle.
Though I was somewhat encouraged by the resolution of the meeting to monitor block by block the remaining pruning work, I don't believe this is the right solution to the problem. It was evident at the meeting that A & B is not qualified to do the work if they have generated such an uproar and the owner demonstrated such little understanding of the issues. If he doesn't understand, how does it get conveyed to the individual crew members? As agreed to at the end of the meeting, I reviewed the pruning that was done yesterday the 100-200 S. block of Grove and the 100 S. block of Kenilworth. While less of the trees is being limbed up, there is still a lot of skinning, instead of thinning in a balanced way, and many of the larger branch cuts did not need to be made. Look at the Autumn Purple Ash by the garage on the north side of Pleasant St. just east of Kenilworth. That pruning job is a good example of removing 50% of the canopy of a tree and skinning out the branches leaving a tuft of twigs at the tips, both of which practices are contrary to the standards accepted in the industry, and detrimental to the health of the tree. We should not have to train our contractor in the correct manner of pruning trees. They should have never been on the bid list. My even greater concern is that our own forester has defended these practices in spite of all our concerns, explaining to Channel 5 crews last night why the pruning is so drastic.
I request again a temporary moratorium on the tree pruning in Oak Park by A & B until they can be properly trained and prove they are capable of following generally accepted standards. It was clear that we really have no standard. The specification that Jim (Semelka) gave me reads branches up to 14' should be removed, but he says what he means is branches should be removed so that in 4 years they are at 14' height, and then A & B says their instructions were to remove branches up to 16'. But in reality, many many trees are being limbed up over 20' both along the street side and the sidewalk side. Soon the trees will leaf out and the damage will be even more apparent. My question to you is how can we justify continuing the pruning until this problems permanently resolved by outside experts, the residents and the Village.
We have spent considerable personal time on this, for the benefit of the entire town, going door to door letting residents know that the crews who don't know what they are doing are approaching their block. We have talked to experts in the field, looked at other village programs, and come to the conclusion that our forestry department is not currently qualified to manage the "cherished urban forest" that Mr. Swenson talked about when he was hired 4 years ago.
5 television newscast, March 26, 2001.
NBC 5 NEWS 6 p.m.
Newscast March 26, 2001
ANCHOR ALLISON ROSATI:
They're big and beautiful and some residents want to make sure they stay that way. NBC's Anita Padilla is live in suburban Oak Park tonight to tell us about a tree fight underway. Anita.
REPORTER PADILLA: Well, Allison and Mark, anytime you drive through the Village of Oak Park you'll notice that you're driving pretty much under a canopy of trees. And that is really what the Village is known for--it's beautiful trees. In fact, they received several rewards for Tree City U.S.A. But the Village says that these trees are in severe need of pruning. But residents say its more like a hack job.
TAPE: PADILLA VOICE OVER Trees are synonymous with the Village of Oak Park. They're everywhere and on every street. It's been more than a decade since a tree trimming program was in place. That is, until now. The Village plans to have each tree trimmed once every four years. And some residents have a problem with the way the work crews are doing it.
RESIDENT CHURCH MERYDITH: Although you may want to remove a few low hanging branches there's no need for this kind of butchery.
RESIDENT CAROL BUER: This is Tree City U.S.A., yeah. And now it's really become Stick City.
PADILLA: These folks are angry and say this is no pruning job, but instead a chain saw massacre.
BUER: You know a weeping willow looks like a linden looks like an ash looks like a ginkgo. You can't tell. They all look alike. They've all received the same haircuts.
PADILLA: They want the Village to stop the work until a team of experts can come up with a better plan. The Village's forestry supervisor says tree trimming is long overdue. And he says in an urban environment it requires special pruning.
OAK PARK FORESTRY SUPERVISOR JIM SEMELKA: As this tree is trying to grow horizontally instead of vertically and in an urban atmosphere you want to promote vertical growth. One of the reasons is for clearances.
PADILLA: Now they say another reason they're trimming the limbs sort of near the base is because they say if a bad storm were to blow through here it would actually rip that limb off and tear the tree and that would cause the tree more damage. And that's why their cutting them the way they are. Reporting live from the Village of Oak Park, Anita Padilla NBC 5 News.
The following items appeared in the April 4, 2001 Wednesday Journal Viewpoints page 21:
village pruning or ruining our trees?
Point: Pruning is good for our trees by Jim Semelka, Oak Park Village Forester
Residents concerned about the extent of the tree pruning now underway can rest assured that the trees are in no danger, and will, in fact, be healthier and less likely to be damaged by high winds, large trucks, disease or insects.
I am pleased that so many people care so deeply about the trees on the village parkways. As a certified arborist, I, too, care deeply about trees. However, my professional training and experience have prepared me to recognize growth problems and take steps that my seem drastic to the layman, but are in the best interest of the trees in terms of their long-term health and vitality.
A fresh cut on a large limb may appear dramatic at first, but I know it will soon heal. Were that same limb ripped away by a sudden wind or a passing truck, the damage would be much more lasting, perhaps even life threatening to the tree. And when these freshly pruned trees leaf over the next several weeks, the positive impact of the pruning will be clear. Those trees just pruned will produce some of the most elegant canopies in the Village, allowing easy passage of pedestrians and vehicles. Even more importantly, these trees will be much less likely to be damaged in a storm.
While the pruning may seem extensive, it is based upon sound arboriculture science and is well within the trees can tolerate. Oak Park's trees deserve nothing but the best care, and that is what they are receiving.
Counterpoint: Forestry's pruning program is a hack job by Gary Johnson, Citizens Tree Rescue
March 21 street meeting of Village officials, nationally-known Urban Forester
and former Oak Parker Chuck Stewart, and citizens concerned about the trimming
of Oak Park trees confirmed what many residents have been screaming about for
months: that this spring's parkway tree pruning by a Village contractor has
been needlessly severe and destructive. Accordingly, Village forestry supervisor
Jim Semelka and a representative of A&B Tree Trimming of Riverside were asked
to change their pruning practices. While standing in the shadows of the severely
pruned trees, the eleven member group, which included Stewart, Village President
Barbara Furlong, Trustee Rick Kuner, Assistant Village Manager Ray Wiggins,
various public works representatives, local landscape architects and concerned
citizens agreed A&B's work would be evaluated on a daily basis for the remaining
blocks (west from Grove to Maple) of the contract. It was also agreed that the
board would get an expert review of the Village's pruning standards before the
next pruning cycle this fall. Semelka and the contractor were called for dismissing
Village and also accepted industry (ANSI) pruning standards, specifically for
1) limbing up trees significantly higher that the 14 foot standard necessary for vehicle clearance,
2) stripping out too much foliage, and
3) ignoring the characteristics, i.e., species and age, of each tree. Mr. Semelka was told no one should notice the light touch required of a four year pruning cycle.
The next day Mr. Semelka was still spouting his discredited severe pruning gospel, this time on television to NBC News 5 reporter Anita Padilla, in a story broadcast on the 6 o'clock news, where disgusted residents called the pruning "butchering" and "a hack job."
In letters to the editors, in the Village news letter, and on a continuous running PR video on the local cable access channel he continues his cant. If Mr. Semelka's arguments are sound why did the Village, immediately following the March 21 meeting, hire Chuck Stewart, the concerned citizens' urban forester, to give two days of training on proper pruning techniques to the contractor's and the Village's tree crews? Amazing. After three months of hacking at our trees the guys with the chain saws are finally getting lessons.
It has taken many weeks to get the attention of Village Hall, which, according to sources, has been deluged with complaints since January. Promises for citizen meetings with officials were put off as the Village continually deferred to Semelka. Calls for a temporary moratorium to evaluate the Village pruning standards were denied. Indeed, challenges to both Semelka's and the contractor's methods were met with a mix of arrogance, smooth talk and a patronizing denial that concerned citizens could ever muster the expertise to recognize something was truly amiss. Now they have been told by a highly-qualified expert that their practices have been wrong. They have compromised the health and splendor and the feel of the street of one-sixth of our urban forest. Oak Park deserves better.
For a stark visual comparison, drive the 100 south block of Scoville, between Pleasant and South Blvd., then swing a block west to the 100 south block of East Ave. You decide which block's trees have been pruned by the guiding hand of urban forester Chuck Stewart to industry standards. That day, on that block, the crews gathered small bundles of pruned-out sticks beneath each tree, compared to the tall-as-a-man brush piles that lined the earlier blocks of massacred trees.
Overall, while the subsequent pruning, at best, uneven, has improved, one still sees the disfigured limbing up and cleaning out of foliage that renders some trees unidentifiable. Concerned citizens now monitor the contractor's crews as they move into the east-west streets. But the Village crews must still be closely watched. In what appears to be an isolated case, the 900 and 1000 north blocks of Euclid have been "hit" by, we assume, the forestry department. Experts also tell us that forestry department trimmers, responsible for pruning seven-inch caliper (diameter) and smaller trees throughout the Village, are limbing up too many of the lower branches that are needed for strong growth. Does anybody in that department know what's good for our trees?
Oak Park's Spring 2001 pruning debacle raises many serious questions about the competency of the Village Forestry Department. The decision by Village Hall to monitor the trimming of our trees is a victory for the people. But the action comes too late for the many residents of east Oak Park whose trees have been ravaged. The tragedy is that many of these irrevocably disfigured trees could have been saved if someone at Village Hall would have listened sooner, and if those in charge would have known what they were doing.
Report, editorial, page 2, Wednesday Journal
Can't see the forest for the tree-trimmers
Citizens Tree Rescue and other concerned citizens took on the village and public works the past couple of weeks, denouncing the ironhanded, aggressive tree trimming on blocks between Austin Boulevard and Oak Park Avenue, South Boulevard and Madison Street.
Last Wednesday, landscape professionals, village government officials, and citizens toured the trimmed areas, and all agree the trees had been cut too severely. In some cases, branches up to 20 feet from the ground were removed, leaving unadorned trunks at the bottom and tufts of foliage at the top.
Among those in attendance were: Village president Barbara Furlong, assistant village manager M. Ray Wiggins, pubic works director Joe Euclide, director of forestry Jim Semelka, a representative from A&B Landscaping, landscape architects Mark Finger and Karen Heller from Carol Yetken Associates, Kathryn Jonas of Citizens Tree Rescue, and urban forester Chuck Stewart.
As of Thursday, the trees on the 100 and 200 blocks of Grove Street were pruned to new guidelines, and Kenilworth, Clinton, Home Marion, and Maple will be trimmed less severely as well. The village's pruning standards will be reviewed before the next pruning season.
Fifty-two square blocks of trees were trimmed before the meeting, and the lower branches have been irreversibly removed.
Report, editorial, Wednesday Journal, July 4, 2001
Yetken's plea saves a tree at Julian
An elm tree near the about-to-be-leveled Percy Julian Junior High building was saved last week thanks to the irrefutable logic of Carol Yetken, landscape architect. The district's original plan saved one elm. Yetken's new plan saves two.
Throughways for the construction site had been shifted to save a crabapple tree on the west end of the site. Yetken said, "The crab is a small, younger, less quality tree."
Yetken said that there are so few of the large trees left, and the corner of Ridgeland Avenue and Washington Boulevard houses two of the elms.
Her plea came in the nick of time: One of the elms was slated for removal Thursday morning. "They were saved by the skin of their bark," said Gary Johnson of Citizens Tree Rescue, an ad hoc group dedicated to saving Oak Park trees. The Oak Park Elementary School District 97 school board and Superintendent Jack Fagan were convinced. The next day, they worked out a revised plan so trucks will enter the Julian site from Washington Boulevard, and no elms will be removed from site entry. The smaller crabapple tree was cut down.
Yetken's next project? Saving the Linden trees in front of the about-to-be-leveled library site.