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Local News

Residents concerned, but Berwyn officials say aggressive tree trimming has long-term results

BERWYN – Parkway tree trimming has prompted a Berwyn man to begin a campaign against what he believes to be excessive trimming practices in the city, and claims it may actually be harmful – even fatal – to the trees in the long run.

But city officials said the trimming, which is supervised by certified arborists, is not only in line with what has become a standard practice but is actually beneficial to the trees.

Ed Allard, of the 1800 block of Scoville Avenue, started a blog, to raise awareness of over-pruning by removing much of the interior of the branches. The practice leaves behind what looks like a lion’s tail, he said.

“It seems to be a national trend,” Allard said, who works as an engineer. “It’s way easier to go in and mutilate them, than to properly trim them. I did a lot of research. It’s like giving them a crew cut. It’s something that needs to be stopped.”

City Administrator Brian Pabst agreed trees in Berwyn are trimmed aggressively when the time comes. But it’s done to avoid having to trim trees every year, at a considerable cost to the city, he said. Pabst added he receives complaints regularly from residents that Berwyn’s trees aren’t trimmed enough.

Allard expressed his concerns to both Pabst and Alderman Theodore Polashek, but said Pabst appeared not to be interested in what he had to say. Pabst, on the other hand, said he prefers to follow what the experts say about tree trimming, especially in areas where trees haven’t been trimmed for years.

“Is it a drastic trim? Absolutely,” Pabst said. “The reason why is some have not been trimmed in over 20 years. We get hammered by residents that we don’t trim trees enough. The trees will fill out. According to certified arborists, this is appropriate. Yes, the canopy is high, but they will fill in.”

Arborist Mark Duntemann, who started Natural Path Urban Forestry Consultants in 1988, advises cities internationally on urban tree policies and programs. Duntemann, who sits on the board of the Illinois Arborists Association, inventoried Berwyn’s trees last year through a grant from the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus. The purpose, along with identifying trees infested with the emerald ash borer, is to get a baseline of information for cities to develop strategies for tree care.

Duntemann evaluated about 14,000 trees in Berwyn to help the city develop maintenance recommendations, for both the long and short term. And in some cases, the start of such a program can look pretty startling, he said.

“It’s an issue with a lot of towns like Berwyn who have a large tree resource, but its maintenance program hasn’t been invested in, in quite a few years,” he said. “Part of the problem is you have trees that need a lot a maintenance on them, so when you start a pruning program, significant work has to be done on some of the trees.”

This fall, Duntemann will work with Berwyn Public Works Director Robert Schiller in refining the still developing program.

“The whole idea is to make good choices for the tree’s health,” Duntemann said. “The big point is urban forestry is a long-term process.”

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