While Forest Park’s trees are in good shape overall, the Village of Forest Park Urban Forestry Management plan recommends removing eight trees as soon as possible and calls for the village to diversify its tree stock.

The plan, which includes the full inventory of all trees on Forest Park’s public ways, was developed by Great Lakes Urban Forestry Management using funding from the village and a $9,375 Morton Arboretum grant. In response to the plan recommendations, the village council voted unanimously on June 27 to approve several changes to Forest Park tree regulations. Most notably, it set up procedures for replacing trees that get removed and expanded the Forest Park Recreation Board’s responsibilities to now offer advice on tree preservation and protection.

 Under the new regulations, the village must develop regular plans for planting, protecting and removing trees, and sets the standards for where the planted trees can come from, how many trees of each species the village can plant and how it should care for trees. The Department of Public Works will be responsible for maintaining the list of what can and can’t be planted. 

It makes protecting large trees a priority, since any trees that would replace them would be smaller and it would take time for them to grow to a similar size. Whenever there is a development that might affect trees on the public right of way, a certified arborist either hired or contracted by the village would evaluate the extent of that impact and what, if anything, can be done to preserve the tree. The public trees can’t be removed without a village permit approved by the arborist. 

The new policy sets replacement standards for any trees that do get cut down. Any trees up to 30 inches in diameter must be replaced with at least two trees of 2.5 inches in diameter, and any tree between 30 to 40 inches in diameter must be replaced by at least three trees at least 2.5 inches in diameter, and any tree wider than that must be replaced by at least four trees of those dimensions. The policy calls for those replacement trees to be planted on site “to the greatest extent possible and where permissible/practicable.”

The policy bans the practice of “tree topping” – removing the top portion of the tree. 

Finally, the policy makes the Forest Park Recreation Board responsible for “provide[ing] assistance, direction, and advice to the village regarding the preservation, planting, management, and protection of trees.”  One of the grant requirements was that there be a Tree Board to recommend tree-related policies, and village staff argued that it made sense to use an existing advisory body that already serves a similar purpose. The Recreation Board provides oversight over the village-owned pocket parks – something that it does less of after most pocket parks were leased to the Park District of Forest Park. The rec board also coordinates local volunteer efforts. 

According to the tree inventory, Forest Park trees are largely in good shape. According to the inventory, 2,342 trees, 70% of all village trees, only require regular pruning. And while it recommends removing 196 trees, only eight are in poor enough shape to recommend removal as quickly as possible. That means 113 trees are lower on the removal priority list, and 75 are low priority enough to be removed “as time and budget allows.” 

Another 134 trees have dead limbs that should be removed as soon as possible, but the trees themselves are fine.

The inventory singled out 216 trees that are recommended for monitoring on a regular because they have “a significant defect, or show signs of developing issues, or general decline.” Five may have even deeper issues, but the inventory recommends inspecting them more in depth. 

“It is important to mention that the trees in the elevated risk category do not necessarily pose an immediate threat, however they have defects that have an elevated potential to worsen,” the report states.

The inventory also found that Forest Park trees are fairly diverse, with 72 species represented throughout the village. But it expressed concerns that 50% of all trees fall within the Maple genus, which means that a disease that affects maples could wipe out half of Forest Park trees. The plan puts several maple species on the list of trees that wouldn’t be allowed to be planted, though many other maples are still allowed. It generally recommended planting trees that are currently rare in the village and are well-suited for Forest Park’s climate.  

During the June 27 meeting, Village Administrator Moses Amidei encouraged residents to read the full text of the plan, which is included in the meeting packet starting with page 56.

“The Urban Forest Management Plan is going to be a guiding document for managing our urban canopy — what we strive for, what we should encourage,” he said. “It was a great project. [I am] looking forward to improving our tree assets.”