Parkway Tree Planting

Parkway Tree Planting

Each year, the Parks/Forestry Division plants approximately 700 new trees on parkways citywide.

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Parkway Trees

A parkway is the area between the curb and the sidewalk, and is actually part of the City’s right-of-way. Even if you do not have a sidewalk in front of your house, a City right-of-way exists to some extent. Although this area is City-owned, residents are required to maintain the turf and/or plantings, but the City of Evanston maintains all the trees.

The City’s parkway tree population is about 28,500 trees. These parkway trees and the trees planted on private property, along with other trees in parks and school grounds, make up what is known as the “Urban Forest.”

There are many factors that determine what kind of tree is planted on a parkway. Back in the 1980s and early 1990s, the Division planted new trees according to a master plan that designated certain tree species for each block. This meant that a resident had no choice when a new tree was planted on their parkway. Our current master plan differs significantly from that old plan.

Our staff has developed a list of tree species that are “approved” for parkway plantings. This list was developed based on a complete parkway tree inventory completed in 1999. To maintain tree diversity, no one tree species should make up more than ten percent of the overall population. This will help avoid a single pest from destroying a significant portion of the tree population. A prime example of this is Dutch Elm Disease, where a single fungal disease has eliminated a large percentage of the tree population due to the over planting of American Elms. Since 1999, Ash trees have not been planted due to the concern of an impending infestation of the Emerald Ash Borer.

After the inventory, several common tree species were removed from our approved list because they were too numerous. These include Maples and Lindens, which we will no longer plant on parkways for the foreseeable future. Honey Locusts are also close to being removed from this list as well. The approved species list is available for viewing on the City’s web site under the Forestry section of the Parks/Forestry and Recreation Department.

If the Forestry Division removes a tree from your parkway, we will plant a replacement tree in most cases. In some instances, however, a new tree cannot be planted. Sometimes, the existing trees are too close together to allow them to properly mature and develop a full crown. In order to prevent this problem in the future, we try to maintain thirty-five-foot spacing between all parkway trees. So, if there’s an existing tree closer than thirty-five feet from where your tree was removed, we probably won’t replace it. Other restrictions for planting new trees include streetlight conflicts, and sites that are too close to intersections, which may obstruct traffic site lines.

Once a replacement site is approved, the site is placed on a future planting list. Staff then inspects the site and the surrounding block to determine possible tree species. Some of the factors that determine which tree species will work for that site include the width of the parkway, amount and speed of traffic on the street, the setback of nearby houses or structures, the amount and type of trees already planted nearby, the soil type, and the proximity of signs, hydrants or streetlights. After inspecting the site, staff will list two to three tree species from the approved list that can be planted.

After determining possible tree species, a letter is sent to the resident owning the property adjacent to the planting site. These letters typically are mailed in March for spring planting and in August for fall planting. The letter explains the planting process and time line, and includes a form listing the possible tree species for their parkway. Descriptions of each tree species are also included to help residents make an informed choice. On this form, the resident is able to choose not only the tree species, but in some cases, also the size of the tree to be planted.

Under normal circumstances, we will plant a tree that has a 2 1⁄2-inch diameter trunk at no charge. Depending on the species, this size tree can be anywhere from five feet to fifteen feet tall when planted. If a resident is interested in having a larger tree planted, they can choose a 3 1⁄2-inch diameter tree for a fee of $175 (2010 fee). Unfortunately, not all trees are available in larger sizes. These fees only cover the extra cost of the larger tree, which can range from ten to twenty feet tall when planted. Again, the actual height depends on the tree species selected.

In Spring 2004, the City Council directed staff to accelerate parkway tree replacements and to try to achieve fully-planted status within four years. Although replacement was accelerated, due to the long backlog and the large number of ash trees that were removed due to the Emerald Ash Borer infestation, the Parks/Forestry Division currently has a waiting list for new trees that will take one to two years to fill.

If you have had a parkway tree removed recently, your address should already be on this list if the site can accommodate a new tree. If you are interested in getting a new tree for your parkway, or if you want to find out if your address is already on our list, please call our office at 847.866.2912 or email forestry@cityofevanston.org