Evanston orders public tree inventory

Paige Leskin, Assistant City Editor

Evanston has launched an inventory of all trees on public property in order to evaluate the health of the trees and to enter their locations in the city’s mapping software.

“This inventory is intended for the collection of many attributes of the Evanston urban forest, such as size, species, location and health of each public tree,” the city said in a news release.

The inspections, which began last Thursday, are being conducted by employees of the Davey Resource Group, a consulting firm that specializes in natural resource and ecological services. The group will send out two to six inspectors six days of each week to retrieve data about trees in Evanston.

Paul D’Agostino, Evanston’s assistant director of public works and forestry, said the documentation of trees will go into the city’s Geographic Information System. The GIS stores and manages data about the locations of features of Evanston, including underground streetlight wires as well as water lines and sewer lines.

“Once we have it in that system, we can combine it with other layers,” D’Agostino said. “(The GIS) helps us to coordinate work and avoid conflicts, without having to actually go out there and dig holes to find things.”

The city will also pay attention to the state that trees are in to help establish further actions that should be taken on those trees. Based on the recommendations given by the Davey group, D’Agostino said Evanston can decide which trees are in the worst condition and should be removed.

In the past few years, hundreds of Evanston trees have suffered damages and had to be cut down by the city. Around 400 trees in 2013 were infested with emerald ash borer beetles and were subsequently removed. In the wake of the polar vortex which resulted in freezing temperatures and the city’s snowiest winter on record, dozens of sycamore trees split and became hazardous. The DRG will be in charge of figuring out if any of those dead or damaged trees still remain.

“(The city) will be able to find out where those trees are and look into them further,” said Josh Behounek, a regional business developer for DRG. “They can either remove them or monitor them and do any kind of preventative treatments.”

At the end of the inventory, which is projected to be complete by the beginning of June, Behounek said DRG will prioritize which trees should be dealt with immediately — whether for a simple pruning or for an entire removal.

Although DRG itself will not be involved in taking action on the trees, Behounek said it will advise the city which steps they should take.

“They’ll know exactly what they have and where it’s at,” he said. “They’ll be able to find out what trees are performing well, so that those trees, they can plant more of. So by just having the whole data, they’re able to make more informed decisions.”

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