Lake Forest project to deliver trove of tree information
Lake Forest, IL 7/26/12 The city of Lake Forest is undertaking a street tree inventory -- the first in 15 years -- to identify every city-owned tree on public street parkways. Jeremy Terlap measures a white ash and passes the data to Corey Wierema. | Rob Dicker ~ Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 3, 2012 6:09AM
LAKE FOREST —There’s a silent and invisible inventory taking place in Lake Forest that by next week will have pinpointed, measured, identified and rated at least 10,000 parkway trees — putting a price tag on some of the city’s greatest assets.
“Trees are classified as city infrastructure,” said City Forester Peter Gordon.
But unlike police cars, sewer pipes and computers, the city’s tree population increases in value over time.
“This kind of infrastructure actually grows in its monetary value,” Gordon said. “As trees get bigger and become more aesthetically pleasing, they offer different value to the landscape.”
To get started on the project, the city hired Davey Resource Group to pinpoint each tree’s location, identify what type of tree it is, measure the diameter of the trunk 4.5-feet off the ground, and assess the tree’s condition and proximity to potential hazards.
“It takes them a little over a minute to do each tree,” said Superintendent of Parks and Forestry Chuck Myers. “They’ve got it down to a system.”
Teaching that system to city staff and creating a database that they will support for decades is part of the $40,000 cost the City Council approved in March to begin the inventory process.
Once Davey has hit the 10,000 mark, city crews will take over.
“We will continue to do the street inventory until it gets done,” said Myers.
Once all the city-owned street trees are inventoried — which Gordon estimates number around 20,000 — city workers will begin the same process on the rest of the city-owned properties, including Lake Forest Cemetery, Deerpath Golf Course and all parks.
“Ultimately, an urban forestry management plan will be developed from this,” said Myers.
That plan, he said, “will help us with complete management of our trees, including pruning cycles, disease treatment, things like that.”
The inventory process will not include trees on private land.
“We’re not inventorying every tree in the city. We’re only inventorying city-owned trees,” Myers said. “That’s an important distinction.”
Tracking the destruction of the Emerald Ash Borer will be the first priority.
“There are grants from the government we can apply for if we can show here’s what we have, here’s what we’re going to lose, here’s what we want to replace it with,” Myers said.
With the new system, “we’ll have all that at our fingertips,” he said.
The inventory process began mid-July when a crew of trained Davey arborists descended on the northeast side of town. City workers trained by Davey, meanwhile, concentrated on the central area of the city.
It’s been 15 years since the city completed its previous tree inventory — the city’s first. Once the new record is completed, officials want to create an ongoing assessment process.
“We’re looking at a method of continual inventory,” said Myers. “We want to try to incorporate taking an inventory when we go in the field — when we’re pruning, for example, we can do a quick update.”
That’s key as a tree’s condition can change drastically.
“Three years from now, a tree might be completely different,” Gordon said.
While the current process is thorough, the inventory is invisible to residents.
“There are no tree tags,” Gordon said.
The city is looking at potentially being chosen as a test case for microchipping trees, Myers said.
The new technology and inventory will help the city get a handle on its tree population, which Lake Forest Open Lands Association President John Sentell agrees is a good move.
“A healthy, diverse tree population helps to not only define our community, but is critical in supporting our natural environment,” Sentell said. “To implement a plan that ensures our future tree canopy, we need to better understand where we are today.”
Systematic data collection, Sentell said, “will pay dividends for decades to come.”