Waukegan took the first step this week toward replacing the trees doomed by the emerald ash borer, as the City Council approved the purchase of $30,000 worth of new trees to plant on parkways and other public areas.
But 3rd Ward Ald. Gregory Moisio asked the public to be patient, pointing out that the purchase is a relative handful of what will be needed long-term.
“They’re not going to replace the 4,000 ash trees that we have had to take down,” Moisio told the council at its Aug. 18 meeting. “It’s 110 trees, and at this point we’ve got to decide [where] we want to place them.”
The city contracted Acres Group Landscaping in Wauconda to perform the tree planting, with the $30,000 to be taken out of general funds until grant dollars come in from a reforestation effort funded by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and coordinated locally by the Waukegan Park District.
The time involved in replacing the ash trees that began dying in northern Illinois following the arrival of the Asian beetle some eight years ago is also being calculated in Round Lake, where the village designated $73,000 to remove and replace dead parkway trees last fall.
At the time, village officials estimated it would take three to five years to complete the program due to limited funds. According to an inventory made public in September 2013, more than 1,500 of Round Lake’s parkway trees were ash, and a third of those were “dead or in serious decline” in autumn 2012.
Along with another 200 non-ash trees in need of replacement on Round Lake parkways at that time, village officials estimated that a complete replacement program would cost more than $300,000 just for what was counted in 2012.
Waukegan began its own removal process with public works crews over the past couple of years and stepped up the effort in July by approving a $50,000 contract with Tree Experts Inc. in Antioch to cut down dead trees.
Fifth Ward Ald. Edith Newsome told the council at its Aug. 4 meeting that she had already seen the private cutters at work, saying “they are doing an excellent job — they’re fast, and when they leave the area for the day, it doesn’t even look like they’ve been there.”
“They clean up so nicely. The streets are clean, there’s no branches,” Newsome said. “I will miss the trees. I loved how the trees used to look when they used to cover over my whole street, but over the last four or five years, I haven’t had that effect, because they’re all dead.”
Newsome added that “95 percent of the trees in my area have to come down, and that’s going to be sad, because there won’t be any shade. But they’re dead now, so we’re not getting much shade anyway.”