When the chainsaws stop buzzing later this year, Brookfield will have about 400 fewer ash trees than it did at the start of 2014. And by 2018, the 900 or so ash trees still standing in the village will be gone, too, all victims of the emerald ash borer.
It’s not just Brookfield. The emerald ash borer has devastated large swaths of the nation, felling millions of trees. Its arrival here has been more recent, but the impact is already being felt.
In response to the loss of so many trees in both Brookfield and LaGrange Park, the Brookfield-LaGrange Park Lions Club is stepping up to raise money for reforestation efforts in both villages.
At the Brookfield Village Board meeting on March 23, members of the club announced their campaign, which will start in earnest later this month, on April 24, which is Arbor Day.
“The goal is to replenish the tree stock with a more diverse and hardy population of trees,” said club President Jason Vitell, a LaGrange Park resident.
According to Vitell, the stated goal of the club is to raise $45,000, which is enough to purchase 100 trees that would be split equally between the two villages. Of course, said Vitell, the club would like to raise enough money to replace all of the trees both villages are expected to lose over the next few years — about 2,000 in all.
The club plans on raising the money via a crowd-funding website, where people can make donations. The club is using Indiegogo.com as the platform for the campaign and has asked each village to place a link to their fundraising page on the villages’ websites.
“We’d also like to extend that to park districts and libraries,” said Vitell, “though we’ve not done that yet.”
On April 25, the Lions will pitch the tree challenge at Brookfield’s annual spring cleanup day, Project NICE. According to Vitell, they’ll also be participating in the LaGrange Pet Parade and the Brookfield July 4 parade.
In fact, when the fundraising website goes live on April 24, the Lions will begin an intensive two-month push for donations on as many platforms as possible.
“We’re going to try to be very visible in the villages,” said Vitell, adding that members will make visits to local businesses and send out emails.
While the push won’t be as strong after that initial surge, Vitell said the fundraising campaign will be a “rolling thing.”
“We’ll keep it going until the end of the year. This will be one of the things the Lions will push.”
Vitell, a retired paid-on-call firefighter in LaGrange Park and a member of the club for the past four years, said the local chapter decided on the tree challenge in response to Lions Club International’s urging to its members to do something for the club’s centennial, which will be in 2017.
During the next two years, the 1.35 million Lions in clubs all over the globe are being asked to pilot projects addressing any of four themes — young people, the environment, hunger and vision planning.
Brookfield Public Works Director Dan Kaup said he’s grateful that the Lions came to the village “out of the blue” with their offer to help with reforestation efforts. The village plans on cutting down 300 trees in each of the next three years. And while the village board earmarked more money in the village’s 2015 budget for buying and planting trees, it’s not enough to match the loss.
“At this point we’re not keeping up with the pace of removals,” said Kaup, noting that the village is planning on buying replacement trees in diverse species, from Accolade elms to several types of oaks to horse chestnut, maples, ironwood and a selection of ornamental trees.
“Each planting cycle, the forester will choose a variety of three or four species that we’ll offer as plantings for a year,” Kaup said.
The village does accept requests from residents whose trees were lost to the emerald ash borer. There is no additional cost to residents for trees that are being replanted, Kaup said.