Courtesy John Doss

The attack of the emerald ash-borer on parkway trees has not been as devastating elsewhere in the village of Forest Park as in Jewish Waldheim Cemetery. But it’s still a heart-breaking problem for tree-loving Public Works Director John Doss. 

“I was in forestry until I became assistant director,” he recalled. “I spent 20 out of 24 years on the street.” When the emerald ash-borer first reached Forest Park, Doss was shocked by the damage they caused.

Fortunately, Forest Park doesn’t have many ash trees. Doss has a printout that meticulously lists the location of every ash. Out 3,445 trees on village property, only 257 are ash, or 7.46%. “Ashes are dying all over the Midwest. We’re doing better than towns with a high-percentage of ash trees. We’ve taken down 155 so far. We’re following a five-year plan to take them all down.

“Taking down trees is heavy, hard, dirty work,” he noted. “It’s very dangerous.” 

Doss knows this firsthand. He lost two fingers trying to clear a chipper. Fortunately they were reattached and are functional. 

“We contract with Sterling to take down the trees close to wires and above streetlights.” He is referring to Sterling Tree Solutions at 7756 Madison St. “But the majority are taken down by Public Works.

“We can take down one tree a day,” he said. “Sterling can take down 3-4 trees in one day. We use 4-5 guys to cut down a tree. I hate taking them down. I won’t take them down unless they’re dead or a danger.” 

Apart from the ash infestation, most of the town’s trees are in good shape. “We lose maples and lindens occasionally. We have a few with Dutch elm and take one down, once in a great while.”

“We’ve learned how to control Dutch elm,” he said. “We only trim them in the cold weather, when the bug is not around.”

With ash trees, it’s not so easy. “We tackled the mature ash trees first. We do the removal, hauling away and the restoring of the parkway. We haul the logs to a place that charges us for dumping them. The rest is ground into mulch. We contract the stump removal to Forest Park Tree Removal. 

“We’re getting lots of complaints about cutting down trees,” Doss said, “but we’re trying to replace every tree we take down.” The village offers 12 species of parkway trees that come in a kaleidoscope of colors. At www.forestpark.net, the Tree Planting List, contains specifications for each type of tree, along with photos of mature trees and close-ups of their leaves.

The list includes the “Crimson King” Norway maple, a golden honeylocust and an “Ivory Silk” Japanese lilac. 

“Residents can choose the tree for their parkway,” Doss explained. “We’ll be adding more species to the list, spreading root and taproot. If a resident doesn’t see the tree they want, we may be able to order it. We’ve put in three male ginkgos.”

To save money on these replacements, the village belongs to the Suburban Tree Consortium. 

“They bid for trees from the nurseries with the best prices,” he noted. “We’re planting 30 new trees this fall and 30 in the spring.” Doss and his crew enjoy planting trees and it’s much easier than taking them down. 

“There are a million reasons people want a tree in front of their house,” Doss said. “We lost a maple in front of our house. We replaced it with a linden. Linden’s are fuller but they drop the ‘helicopter’ seedlings.” 

Being a true tree-lover, however, Doss doesn’t mind cleaning them up. 

John Rice

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball...