Getting to the root of tree problems in Naperville
By BILL MEGO firstname.lastname@example.org February 19, 2013 8:18PM
Heather Eidson/Staff Photographer
Updated: March 21, 2013 6:11AM
A tree, they tell me, is worth several thousand dollars, sometimes as much as $50,000. The trees themselves don’t tell me that, since they are understandably biased, but Realtors do. They estimate that trees add that much to the monetary value of a house, depending on the species and the size.
Of course, it all depends. A tree in the wrong spot, like coming up through the kitchen, isn’t valuable at all, except to certain rather eccentric individuals who like that sort of thing. A tree also has intrinsic value depending on the board feet of lumber it contains. What it boils down to, I suspect, is that a tree is worth what it’s worth to you.
The United Nations has programs that put very high values on trees around the world based on the services they provide to natural ecosystems and the people who inhabit them. Theodore Roosevelt thought that trees were almost as valuable as children in providing hope for the country. Julius Sterling Morton, once Secretary of Agriculture, thought enough of trees to found Arbor Day. And of course he passed that love on to his son Joy, who built what is now the Arboretum in Lisle.
For years the city of Naperville has toyed with the idea of a mandatory tree replacement ordinance that would require citizens to replace any tree they remove with another tree, or trees if they are small ones, of equal value. They recently rejected the idea, citing homeowner rights, even though a commission they empaneled on the matter had voted to pass it.
Well, the Council must do what it thinks best for the citizens and for itself, since there is an election coming up, but one would like to imagine that in the future they might avoid having a panel go through that much effort if the Council knew it was going to reject the wrong conclusion.
A while back, another city commission voted to allow sidewalks to go around trees. Obsessive compulsive contractors had been cutting down lots of valuable parkway trees because they assumed the city wanted absolutely straight sidewalks. When the Council thought it through, they realized that they should have thought it through before, and they accepted the commission’s suggestion, much to the relief of homeowners.
Well there is another matter involving trees that needs thinking through. I live in an older, tree filled subdivision that was once promised buried electric lines, but still has 1950s electric wires draped like so much laundry through the trees behind our houses. Fortunately, our smart meters will now notify the city when the system shorts out, because we’ve never been able to get through on our cell phones.
Every summer, presumably to minimize such outages, the city hires a contractor to trim the trees around the wires. And every summer, a dozen angry homeowners, usually older people, end up in their backyards, cussing out the contractors while the crew sits on the grass and laughs at them for being so upset.
It’s the most common complaint about the city I hear, and I know exactly what they mean. I’ve written about my experiences with them, and how they butchered our 40-year-old blue spruce, even though it couldn’t possibly short the system and couldn’t allow someone to climb anywhere near the wire. They did it because the ordinance is vague and arbitrary, and because the foreman doesn’t like me.
Well, the Council has no business endowing a contractor with the full authority of the city without providing homeowners access to someone who can arbitrate disagreements and exercise what both the ordinance and the contractor seem to lack, common sense judgment. What is a tree worth? Not much after those guys get through with it.