Responding to concerns from residents over the number of trees scheduled for removal along Prairie Avenue during a street improvement project next year, village trustees and staff revisited the issue at the village’s board Dec. 12 meeting.

But any hope for a significant reduction in the 38 trees designated for removal during construction appears to be a fairly dim one. Village Forester Scott DeRoss explained to trustees that leaving such large trees in place after their root systems had been severely damaged during the roadwork would either pose a threat to safety or simply delay the inevitable.

“Based on my experience, if you leave the trees up or do root pruning, you’re going to lose half of the root systems,” DeRoss said. It’ll become a liability issue for the village. I’d personally not leave them up.”

DeRoss added that he would examine the possibility of saving as many trees situated in the parkway along Prairie Avenue, between 31st Street and Washington Avenue, which will undergo widening and resurfacing in 2006. The widening is necessary because roughly 70 percent of the project is being paid with federal funds and must conform to their standards.

The village sought and received a variance from the Illinois Department of Transportation to reduce the total scope of the street widening, but it’s not enough apparently to save 75 percent of the parkway trees along that stretch of street.

Some 34 trees are expected to be removed along Prairie Avenue, two on Garfield Avenue (to allow for pavement to be installed) and two on Monroe Avenue at Salt Creek (to allow for the installation of a storm sewer outfall).

Twenty-four of the 34 trees marked for elimination on Prairie Avenue are silver maples, most ranging in diameter from 20 to 53 inches. Also targeted for removal are three ash trees, two American elms, two Siberian elms, one sycamore, one Norway maple and one honey locust.

“It’s really unfortunate to see an old tree go,” De Ross said. “By leaving them up or doing root pruning to try to save them, you’re still going to have the same problem in the future. You will be removing these trees or large dead wood later.”

By removing the trees during the project, Brookfield will pay only a portion for both tree removal and planting new trees. The federal government will chip in 75 percent of that cost as well.

According to Village Manager Riccardo Ginex, the average cost to remove/replace one tree is just over $1,100. By opting to remove the trees as part of the project, Brookfield’s share per tree would be roughly $290. If a tree is saved but later is determined to require removal, the village will bear the full cost of removal and replacement.

“We’d like to save as many trees as possible,” Ginex said, “but we cannot finance the project ourselves. The street has to be widened, and that will result in trees being lost.”

While new trees will be planted in the Prairie Avenue parkway, there probably won’t be a one-to-one replacement ratio.

Because village ordinances require certain spacing for trees, DeRoss estimated that “we might remove 34 trees and replace them with 25.”

The new trees will necessarily be much smaller than the ones they’re replacing. Typically, new trees are between 1.5 and 2 inches in diameter. DeRoss said that it may be possible to replace them with 3-inch diameter trees, although their survival rate is poorer since they need more care than the smaller, younger trees.