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posted: 10/19/2017 11:40 AM

Bensenville's tree program aims for bigger, stronger canopy

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  • Mature trees line Barron Street in Bensenville. The village lost more than 1,200 trees to the Emerald Ash Borer beetle and is planting 60 to 70 new trees every spring and fall to replace them.

    Mature trees line Barron Street in Bensenville. The village lost more than 1,200 trees to the Emerald Ash Borer beetle and is planting 60 to 70 new trees every spring and fall to replace them.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer

  • Washington Street in Bensenville is a mix of new and old trees.

    Washington Street in Bensenville is a mix of new and old trees.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer

 
 

In the wake of the Emerald Ash Borer beetle invasion that claimed more than 1,200 trees in Bensenville, the village is in the midst of a long-term project to both restore its urban canopy and make it bigger and stronger.

The village next week will continue its ongoing program to plant 60 to 70 parkway trees each spring and fall to offset the loss of all those ash trees that fell victim to the borer.

The tiny bug left a giant path of destruction in every community where ash trees -- with their resistance to road salt and ability to withstand the toughest weather conditions -- had become a go-to choice for parkway plantings.

Now, as Bensenville moves to replenish its canopy, officials say the village is working smarter to ensure a wider variety of parkway plantings that won't fall prey to a single plague like Dutch Elm Disease in the 1970s or, more recently, the ash borer.

Toward that end, Village Manager Evan Summers says, the village adopted its aggressive replacement program within its $641,075 annual forestry division budget.

As part of that effort, it's also striving to give residents more say in the types of trees going in front of their houses.

This fall, for example, the village selected 10 species to be planted beginning Oct. 23. Homeowners scheduled to get a new tree receive a letter from the village listing which would be best suited for individual locations, taking into account everything from overhead utility wires and depth of the parkway to the amount of shade and types of trees already in the area. Homeowners then are asked to list their top three preferences.

There's no guarantee residents will get the tree they want -- they're made available on a first-come, first-served basis -- but Summers said the village makes every effort to accommodate requests.

He said the village recognizes the importance of trees, including their effect on property values and sound reduction, and is determined not only to offset the damage caused by the ash borer, but to move beyond it.

"We've already planted more trees than we took down," he said.

Indeed, Summers said the village's interest in trees goes beyond the replacement program.

For one thing, officials want to develop an arboretum at underused Veterans Park that will include at least one of every type tree planted in the village.

They even dream of pursuing a project similar to one in Riverside, where the entire village has been designated an arboretum.

Both those projects will take years to complete. You don't just snap your fingers and create an arboretum.

But they're indicative of a village that has been designated a Tree City USA for the past 27 years and takes that status seriously.

And, forgive the pun, but it's also indicative of a village ready and willing to rise from the fallen ashes.