Forest Park’s village council took a few steps toward fixing up village streets and making it more environmentally friendly during its Feb. 28 meeting, adopting a Green Streets policy and authorizing Village Administrator Moses Amidei to apply for a grant with Morton Arboretum to do a village-wide tree inventory. 

The Green Streets policy states that, when an infrastructure improvement project comes before the village, it will consider what environmentally friendly features the project could incorporate. The policy specifically does not require Forest Park to add those features in every instance – if the features are not “reasonably feasible and practicable (including financially),” the village may decide not to add them. Amidei said that having a Green Streets Policy would also help the village secure grants. 

For the purpose of the policy, green streets can include features that keep rainwater from overwhelming sewers during storms, such as permeable pavement, water detention tanks and rain gardens. It can also include features to make the streets pedestrian and/or bicycle friendly and to add trees. The village would review any projects involving road construction or streets improvements, as well as “significant capital improvement projects” built within the street rights-of-way. The review would specifically not apply to routine street maintenance projects. 

Any environmentally friendly features the village approves would need to be “environmentally, physically and economically sustainable.”

Amidei told the council that the village engineer and the village public works director would meet with him to discuss the projects, including the area needs. For example, if the area is flood-prone, flooding mitigation measures would get higher priority. They would also look at other things, such as whether there is room to add rain gardens. 

Amidei also said that green street improvements would help improve water quality. Road salt, he said, is a major contributor to water pollution in the area so it would make sense to have something to filter salt out.

Commissioner of Public Property Jessica Voogd, whose purview includes oversight of sidewalks, parkways, forestry and village-owned pocket parks that haven’t been leased to the Park District of Forest Park, said that, given increased flooding, Forest Park would have to rethink its approach to infrastructure no matter what, and that she was glad that the village was taking this step.

“To me, that just seems like a great commitment to the future of Forest Park and our infrastructure,” she said.

At the same meeting, Amidei asked for authorization to apply for a Morton Arboretum grant that would reimburse Forest Park for half the cost of a professional contractor doing an inventory of all Forest Park trees. The cost is currently estimated to be $19,500, plus $750 to collect the data for the village’s Geographic Information System. The village estimates that, after reimbursements, the project would cost $9,375.

One of the grant conditions is that the village would have to use a contractor the arboretum selected. 

Commissioner Maria Maxham wondered whether it would be cheaper for the village to hire a village arborist to do the inventory. Sal Stella, the village’s public works director, said the previous arborist let his certification expire, and he is currently trying to figure out if any current staff members would be interested in getting the certification – which will take time. And even if there was an arborist currently available, it would be “more time-consuming” than having a contractor do it.

Stella also said that it would cost twice as much to collect GIS data in-house.

The commissioners ultimately agreed to let Amidei proceed with the application. The village council would still need to vote to accept the grant agreement.