By Bob Uphues
North Riverside Public Works Director Tim Kutt will embark on creating a five-year tree planting program and establishing a database of the village's stock of parkway and park trees this summer in order to better map out urban reforestation efforts.
The North Riverside Village Board made that effort possible by unanimously voting on March 6 to have the village join the West Central Municipal Conference's Suburban Tree Consortium, which provides resources for obtaining trees and offers technical assistance to its member communities about sustaining the urban forest.
The cost of membership is minimal at $500 per year, and it provides members the ability to choose from seven nurseries and obtain competitive prices for trees, because the consortium includes about 40 communities.
"For the last couple of years it's been harder to obtain parkway trees, because of the emerald ash borer," Kutt said. "Everybody was wiping out the tree stock [to replace trees]."
In the past, Kutt has worked with the North Riverside Garden Club to administer the village's parkway tree replacement program, and that won't change. But being a member of the consortium will provide Kutt more options with respect to nurseries and planning for the future.
The consortium offers a five-year contract program so municipal foresters can order species of trees in advance to ensure their availability and at the size that's wanted.
"We'll be able to tell them five years out what we want, and they'll grow them," Kutt said.
Riverside Village Forester Michael Collins has been working through the West Suburban Tree Consortium for the past decade, and touted the benefits of membership.
"I've found that it gives me more flexibility in tree planting and consistent quality,' Collins said. "It's also a great opportunity for networking with other foresters and is a great resource from an informational standpoint."
Brookfield is also a member of the consortium, along with Berwyn, LaGrange, LaGrange Park and Western Springs.
"We're really all part of one urban forest," Collins said.
Kutt said he's asking for $20,000 in the village's 2017-18 budget for reforestation. That's enough to buy and plant more than 50 trees, he said. North Riverside loses about 18 to 22 trees each year to age or storm damage.
"I try to double what we lose [in new plantings]," Kutt said.
While other villages have seen their ash tree inventories obliterated due to emerald ash borer, North Riverside's are hanging on longer. The village for years has been treating its ash trees annually and will spend about $12,000 this spring to inject ash trees to prevent infestation of the emerald ash borer.
According to Kutt, the village's blue ash trees have thrived, though green ashes are slowly being culled by the pest. About 70 percent of ash trees on public lands in North Riverside have survived since the ash borer first appeared in the village three years ago.
Ash trees account for about 8 to 9 percent of the village total tree stock, according to Kutt.
This summer, Kutt said he'll sit down with the Garden Club to begin mapping out a five-year tree planting plan. But first, he said, he's hiring a seasonal employee this summer to compile a database of every tree on public property in North Riverside, including its location, species and condition. That information will be plugged into the village's Global Information System (GIS) program and will help prioritize areas and guide decisions on which species to order with the goal of maintaining a diverse tree stock.