The Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railroad last week removed about 20 pine trees from its right-of-way along Brookfield Avenue between Arden and McCormick avenues in Brookfield, added another 10 or so to that count Monday morning and many more of the trees that line both sides of the tracks west of Prairie Avenue could be coming down in the near future.
While railroad officials reportedly said they had notified the village of the removals, local officials said they were caught off guard when a work crew revved up the chainsaw to begin trimming back the long line of Austrian pines that have stood along the tracks for the past 30 or 40 years.
“It really is a shock,” said Victor Janusz, the village of Brookfield’s forester. “It would’ve been nice to get a heads up before people started having a heart attack over this.”
While last week’s removals only went as far east as McCormick Avenue, Janusz confirmed on Monday that the remainder of the pines between McCormick and the Hollywood Avenue grade crossing had been destroyed.
Among the trees removed was a Colorado blue spruce, which Janusz said he would have used as the village’s Christmas tree had he known it was destined for the wood chipper.
The trees felled last week were removed by a backhoe that loaded the branches and trunks onto a train car brought in for the job. All that will be left of the tree line is a row of short stumps protruding from the ground. Janusz said he was told the railroad does not have plans to plant new trees along the tracks.
Ben Wilemon, external corporate communications manager for the BNSF, told the Landmark in an email that the tree removal are part of a routine right-of-way maintenance project under way all along the 38-mile stretch from Union Station in Chicago to the Aurora Transportation Center.
“The scope of the vegetation removal is 20 feet from the center of our track to either side and higher than 3 feet,” Wilemon said.
On Jan. 21, the first day removal crews worked in Brookfield, workers denuded 10 pine trees before the chainsaw broke, said Wilemon, delaying the project slightly. The crews were back the following day and removed those and roughly another 10.
Asked if the railroad intended to remove all of the trees along the north and south rights-of-way, Wilemon said he wasn’t sure.
“Unfortunately, we won’t be able to quantify until our crews have assessed the entire area of their work,” Wilemon said.
Prior to Friday, there were about 110 pine trees in all along both sides of the tracks, all of them roughly the same distance from the tracks and standing about 20 feet tall. The trees serve not only as a visual barrier, said Janusz, but also as a windbreak and sound barrier.
“It’s going to be windier and it may affect snow drifting on Brookfield Avenue,” Janusz said. “There will be a lot of things we’ll find out in the aftermath.”
Janusz said he was optimistic that trees on the north side of Brookfield Avenue between Prairie and Maple could be saved due to their distance from the tracks. As for the roughly 30 trees in the south right-of-way west of Sunnyside Avenue, he wasn’t so sure.
The majority of the pine trees appear to date to about the 1980s and through the years had been placed there by village staff and by Boy Scouts, who planted some as service projects.
“I remember at one point the village planted about 50 saplings,” said Village President Kit Ketchmark. “I know we’ve replanted a few over there west of Prairie Avenue.
“They serve as a really good buffer for the sound, too, and we’ll be losing that. It looks bad.”