Nature Doesn’t Stop
Even in the middle of a pandemic, nature keeps on trucking. I am lucky enough to have my job considered “essential” so I am still working. My job involves going out and looking at trees. I have been able to experience springtime in mostly the same way as in other years but just without the human interaction.
One of my focuses is pointing out how spending time in nature helps with our mental health. There is a lot of research and books to back this up. I believe my regular trips into nature keep me in a good mental state. Albeit, it’s not that easy in these trying times. Nature is something that can be relied upon. Bulbs are popping, grass is greening, trees are flowering and leafing out. Birds are chirping, squirrels are running around and acting crazy!
Even in these times of “stay at home” you can still get out in nature. Some parks are still open, forest preserves are open and just your own yard or neighborhood. Get out of your house, practice social distancing and (my advice) wear a mask. Getting out is good for your mental health and the rest of your family.
Here are a couple of great books on the subject of mental health and nature:
“Last Child in the Woods” Richard Louv— 2005 ISBN-13: 978-1-56512-522-3
“Forest Therapy” Sarah Ivens— 2018 ISBN-978-0-7382-8513-9
Trouble in the Land of the Giants
No, I’m not talking about the old TV show. I’m referring to the Giant Sequoias of California.
First there was the drought, then all the rain. Feast or famine and climate change has a lot to do with it. My wife got back a few weeks ago from a trip to see these giants. Many of the biggest are failing due to all the rain of late causing them to become uprooted. Still it was worth the trip and I recommend you do it while they are still around.
The following link is a bit of hopeful news that I thought I would pass along.
August 14, 2016
The survival of the human race
I know I don’t post on this blog very often but it is hard to keep up while working a full time job and being involved in other activities. Maybe someday I will become a full time tree advocate and be able to blog, speak and educate full time. I can dream.
You have experienced my rants before, but on Thursday I was shaken to my core. According to a new study in Nature magazine, at the current ratio of destruction/planting, the Earth will run out of trees in 300 years.
Don’t let the headline fool you. Please read the whole article.
This is something I have been concerned about for a while. One of the main reasons Tree Guardians is dedicated to the protection and maintenance of mature trees is because I know how important trees are. We let people too easily remove trees. Some towns have no ordinances at all when it comes to trees on private property. I know the Morton Arboretum is working on ordinance templates to distribute to the towns in the 7 counties of Chicagoland through the Chicago Region Tree Initiative. I know this because I am on the committee that has been working on this project. I still think this is not enough. This is voluntary and only one level deals with trees on private property.
I know a lot of people hate government intervention but in my opinion trees are too valuable of a resource to leave to regular homeowners to decide their fate. We need to start treating trees as the irreplaceable they are instead of decorations that can be removed and replaced at a whim. I have heard people who should know better, a well known lady who works for Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) say to a group of municipal arborist that IDNR was happy if they can achieve a one-to-one replacement of Ash trees. The Arbor Day Foundation tells people if they remove a tree to plant two more. THIS WILL NOT DO! We need to regulate who can work on trees and remove them. No more “anyone with a pickup truck and a chainsaw” doing work throughout Chicagoland. We need to train these people and make sure they are not just removing trees to make work and make a living.
February 14, 2016
Cost of not maintaining trees
Trees are alive! While this may seem obvious I point it out because sometimes they are treated like inanimate objects. Because they are alive they need care and nurturing throughout their lives.
As with any living thing; like a child or a pet, provisions should be made for the care of that life as time goes by and it gets older. When you get a pet you know you will have to spend money on vet bills, food, toys and various other things. When you have a child you know you will have to provide clothing, food, shelter, payment for other activities and maybe a college fund. The same is true for a tree. The idea that you just plant a tree and let “nature” take care of it is a false one. For most landscapes, whether they be at single family houses, multifamily developments or commercial properties, they are not natural but composed of trees and other plants chosen by humans because of what they think would look good or ones they desire. Even if native plants are used, it is still an artificially created environment. We want every plant in our landscapes to thrive and be a specimen tree. If you visit a forest preserve or other natural area and look closely you will see not all of the plants are thriving. There is much competition and some don’t make it.
When they are young, they need help getting established. This includes being planted in the proper location, proper planting, watering and mulching. As they grow, they need proper maintenance—fertilizing, insect and disease control and pruning.
Ignoring or delaying proper care does not save money, in fact it costs money. Problems that could have been prevented by proper planting and after planting care now need intervention to keep the tree healthy and alive. Stressed plants are more likely to have disease and insect problems. Trees that are not regularly pruned are more susceptible to storm damage. Leaving broken branches can be an ingress for disease and insects. Major deadwood can be a hazard and liability.
As trees age to 10-20 years old, the benefits of taking care of them out way the cost of maintenance. Constantly replacing trees because they were not maintained means never having the benefits that mature trees bring. Trees are the only part of the infrastructure that do a better job as they get older and larger. When you are replacing trees, even a 7-year old tree (the average age of a parkway tree in Chicago), you lose the time it took to grow that tree. Nobody has more time!
So whether you manage a single home, a townhome complex or a commercial property. Don’t forget to plan for long term care of your trees. It’s worth it.
May 30, 2015
Park No. 503 Revisited
Upon re-visiting Park No. 503 on May 18, 2015 there is good news. The park has a name. It is now known as Clara D. Schafer Park. You can read Ms.Schafer’s story on the Chicago Park District website and you will probably agree that she is deserving of this honor. Looking at the park itself, you might wonder how much of an honor this is.
Other than the name, Park No. 503 hasn’t really progressed much in 2 years. The Chicago Park District will want to talk about the trees that have been planted, but these 2” caliper trees in no way replace the 100-year-old trees that were cut down. There is also a bicycle/walking path that goes through the park.
This would be considered the nicest view of the park. These trees might not survive except for watering being done by local residents.
Because there are no amenities in the park, the path is basically a way to get to the other side. There are no benches, or shelters and most of all no restrooms, which is a main concern of local residents. Another major concern is the lack of a fence between the park and the heavily traveled Route 41(also known as South Lake Shore Drive). Since there are no swings or other playground equipment why would anyone take their kids to the park to play? If they did it wouldn’t take much for a kid running after a stray ball to go into traffic and be hit by a car. What is interesting is that there is a fence on the west side of the park, the side on South Mackinaw Ave. Is this fence to keep the residents out of the park?
Maybe we are looking at this all wrong. Let’s look at some of the other photos that were taken on May 18, 2015.
No matter how you look at it Park No 503 is barely better than a vacant lot. It’s just a field with a lot of weeds.
The citizens that live in the Park No 503 area deserve better. We understand that the trees will take many years to grow enough to provide shade. In the meantime, how about a shelter with a picnic table? A fence along Lake Shore Drive to protect the children from this high traffic road? Or at the very least, restroom facilities. Make Park No 503 a place that invites the public to visit and stay and have a good time. Create a pleasant destination that the residents are proud of and the descendants of Clara D. Schafer are too.
April 30, 2014
ARBOR DAY AT ELMHURST ACADEMY
On April 25, 2014, Arbor Day in Illinois, I had the pleasure of talking to the pre-school and kindergarten kids at Elmhurst Academy, Elmhurst, Illinois. This is the 3rd year I have visited this school on Arbor Day. These children are especially smarty and already know a lot about trees and the environment. This is due to the great job being done by Kaitlyn Berger and the rest of the staff.
Here I am modeling the new Tree Guardians t-shirt which features the new logo, designed by my wife, Kathi Quinn. Products with this logo are available on Zazzle.(http://www.zazzle.com/treeguardians*)
Here I am showing the kids one of the many branches that I brought in from different trees. They really enjoyed seeing the samples and hearing explanation of the difference between evergreen(conifer) and deciduous trees. I’m going back in fall to talk about why and how leaves turn colors and I plan to have a great demonstration of that.
December 8, 2013
In celebration of the holidays I decided to give the gift of one of my Jake stories. Please share this as with as many children as you want but remember that I hold all copyrights, etc. Cover art by Kathi Quinn.
Jake and the Christmas Trees
One day in December my son Jake came inside at the end of the school day. He looked like he was deep in thought, trying to figure something out.
“What’s wrong, Jake?” I asked.
“Daddy, I’m sad because so many trees died. The only ones still alive are the Christmas trees.”
I knew that “Christmas trees” is what Jake called evergreens; but I didn’t know why he thought the other trees were dead.
“Jake, what trees do you think are dead?”
“All the trees that don’t have any leaves. All the leaves turned colors and fell off. They must be dead. There is nothing but empty branches.”
“Well Jake, those trees aren’t dead. They lose their leaves every year. They are called ‘deciduous trees’.”
“The Sid juice trees?” said Jake.
“Yes, Jake.” Close enough I thought. “Deciduous is the name for trees that lose their leaves every year. Those trees are not dead. The other trees are called ‘evergreen’.”
“But Daddy! How can those trees be alive without any leaves? I thought you told me that trees need leaves to make food. How can they make food without any leaves?”
“That’s a good question, Jake. Remember when we watched the nature special about animals that hibernate?”
“You mean like the bears and ground dogs?”
“Yes, the bears and ground hogs” I corrected, “Before animals go to sleep for the winter they eat a lot of food and get really fat. That way their bodies have something to eat until they wake up. The deciduous trees store up a lot of food in their roots so they can have something to eat over winter.”
“What about the Christmas trees?” asked Jake.
“Those trees are like the animals that stay awake over winter. They still have their green parts so they can continue to make food. Just like the animals that don’t go to sleep have to keep finding food to eat.”
Jake was quiet for a few minutes. From the look on his face, I could tell he was thinking hard about something.
“Daddy, how do the ‘sid juice’ trees know when to wake up?”
“Mother Nature tells them when to wake up. When it starts warming up and the days get longer Mother Nature tells the deciduous trees it’s time to wake up. Just like your mother tells you when it’s time to wake up.”
“What happens if Mother Nature forgets to wake up the trees?”
“Well Jake, I don’t think that would ever happen,” I said, “but there are times when Mother Nature wakes the trees up too early. Sometimes if the weather gets warm before it is supposed to Mother Nature gets fooled and wakes the trees up. Then the trees start growing too soon and if the weather turns back to cold the trees can be damaged. They usually survive that.”
“I remember one time when mommy woke me up early for school but it was Saturday.”
“Yes Jake, sometimes mommies and daddies forget. Mother Nature has been around a lot longer and she never forgets.”
November 4, 2013
A couple weeks ago I joined a group called Go Green Northbrook. Here is a link to their website. They also have a Facebook page of the same name. GGN is a grassroots organization that addresses various issues concerning the environment and everyday living. Some of the things they concern themselves with are:
- Bicycling Activism
- Environmental Schools
- Forest Preserves
- Midwest Climate Change
- Reusable Bags Initiative (RUBI)
- Stories & Movies
- Water Conservation
They now have a new team—Urban Forestry. You might have guessed that I initiated this team and volunteered to be the leader.
There are other Go Green groups in the Chicagoland area. They are made up of professionals, businessmen, parents and other citizens. The idea is to be a voice for decisions that are made about the most important issue humans have, a healthy environment. One thing we want to do is be watchdogs over the politicians and bureaucrats to make sure they are looking out for “We The People” and not just special interest groups whose only goal is to make lots of money.
Take a look at their website and FB page. Maybe you will want to start a Go Green group in your town. As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
September 12, 2013
When it comes to commenting on the work of other companies in the “green industry” I try to be diplomatic. I like to support the other branches of the industry but when it comes down to it, I feel my responsibility as an arborist is to the trees (and bushes) and the people who spend money on them.
Unfortunately, I spend a lot of my time looking at trees that are stressed or dying because they did not get a good start in life. What I am talking about is the proliferation of bad planting!
I recently consulted with an old customer who had just moved to a new house. When I say new I mean the home was newly built and the landscaping was newly installed. She had noticed that some of the plants were not looking very good. She called me because she had been very satisfied with the care she had gotten on the trees at her old house. We walked around her new property and I was obliged to point out the problems. Most of them had to do with bad planting:
- trees planted too deep
- burlap left on
- twine left on
- wire cages left on
- hole not wide enough
- planted too close to house
- too much mulch!
I’d like to be able to say this was an isolated case but this is the norm rather than the exception. There is sufficient information available on the right way to plant trees so that is not the problem. What it boils down to is this—time is money and the less time you take to plant trees the more money you can make. In a word—-GREED!
I advise my customers to educate themselves on the proper planting techniques. I have brochures I give them. I suggest they be home when the planting is being done so that they can make sure it is done correctly. They are the customer. We are talking about thousands of dollars’ worth of plant material. They have to be pro-active to ensure that their money is not wasted.
The final word of advice I give homeowners is this—don’t be fooled by the one year guarantee that companies offer. Trees are designed by nature to last hundreds of years. One year in the life of a tree means very little. I can dig a hole in someone’s driveway, plant a tree and it will last one year in its own rootball! Don’t be impressed by this sales trick.
There are other things to consider such as plant selection and placement. We have a saying, “the right plant in the right place”. Many problems can be avoided just by following this rule. Consult a certified arborist before making your choices. Do some research at arboretums and online. Even if you do everything right there is no guarantee the trees will live so it is best not to do anything wrong.
How one person can make a big difference
Yesterday, August 17th, I attended the dedication of Park No. 499(not to be confused with 503) in the southeast side of Chicago in honor of John “Beans” Beniac. Mr. Beniac was a local resident of 10735 Avenue D.
Following open heart surgery, Beans started cleaning up the “prairie” across the street from his house as exercise and something to do. He started by picking up trash; 40 wheelbarrows of junk including tires and car batteries. Then he started mowing the area. The more he did, the more there was to do.
His neighbor’s saw what he was doing and joined in. One started from the other end of the street and started mowing down the where Beans had stopped. Other residents contributed flowers, benches and hard work. Eventually, a bocce ball court was installed. This was back in the early 80’s.
The area became the site for many July 4th and Labor Day parties. Legend has it that Beans would make his own “bombs” to explode on Independence Day but no evidence(wink-wink) exists to verify this.
Beans died in 1994 but the park lived on. Local residents and volunteers continued to make improvements to the strip of land. John Pastirik, David Vance and Karen Roothaan just to name a few.
A paved bicycle path now runs through the park and is heavily used. This is part of the Burnham Greenway, which is composed of two trails—Burnham Greenway North and Burnham Greenway South—that run along a former railroad corridor between Chicago and Lansing, Illinois. There are plans to extend and connect these short sections, which will create 11 miles of trail through some of this urban environment’s best natural areas.
There was a good turnout for the dedication on another beautiful Chicago summer day. The Beniac family was well represented and Alderman John Pope was there as well as leadership from the Chicago Park District, Calumet Ecological Park Association and Southeast Environmental Task Force.
John “Beans” Beniac Park is a great example of how one person lead and others followed. Throughout history there are many stories where an idea was acted upon and snowballed into a movement. Don’t be afraid do what you think is right even if you are only one person. If you do it they will follow.
Last year I wrote a four page paper on the state of the tree industry. I called it “Speaking for Trees” but some people might have called it a manifesto. When I spoke to one of my arborist colleagues after he read it he remarked that I probably have more than one manifesto in me. Here is one of those manifestos.
I want to take part of that paper and talk about the role of municipal arborists and who should be making decisions when it comes to public trees. This is not meant to be an indictment of any one person or group of people, just an examination of how things are done and a suggestion that they might be done differently.
Care for the urban tree canopy falls to mainly two groups, municipal arborists and commercial arborists. Municipal arborists mainly deal with public trees, although many have a say in what happens to private trees. Municipal arborists have a tough job. They not only have to look out for the best interest of the trees but they have to deal with usually unhappy homeowners and politicians and worry about the trees as a liability. They are underfunded, under supported and are usually seen as the bad guy!
Many municipalities are more concerned with parkway trees as liabilities instead of assets. They are quick to remove a tree instead of considering the possible remedies (cabling, rods, proper pruning). Some homeowners do take ownership of the trees on their parkway. They would be willing to pay the expense of maintaining them as opposed to having them removed. Why not loosen rules to allow a homeowner to pay for maintenance of a parkway tree? In one instance a homeowner got the okay to plant two trees on his parkway. Then, years later, one of the trees developed a crack in the trunk. He consulted a certified arborist who told him that by using cables in the canopy and rods through the trunk the tree could be kept alive. The homeowner then called the village arborist who’s first reaction when he saw the tree was that it had to be removed because it was a liability. Why not let the homeowner spend his money to keep the tree alive? In other metropolitan areas around the country, homeowners help foot the bill to maintain public trees. Why not here?
Another situation that municipal arborists deal with is that they are not allowed to make the decision on when and how money is spent on the public trees. An example of this is a suburb that is dealing with Emerald Ash borer. Four years ago, the village arborist came up with a plan on what to do pro-actively to protect the villages Ash trees. Unfortunately, the village mayor and council did not approve the allocation of funds to implement the plan. Then last year, with EAB being widespread throughout the village, funds were set aside to treat some of the trees and remove others. The trees that are being treated are in some cases 50% infested with EAB. While some of them might be saved, most will still die. The money being spent on these treatments at this point is basically wasted. Why not give the tree expert the money he needs when it will do the most good? Here again, maybe homeowners could help.
Some municipalities have no restrictions on tree removal when it comes to private trees. Others that have ordinances are not strict enough. Even towns that have the strictest ordinances cannot replace the trees being removed. A town might have an ordinance that says if you cut down a 20 inch tree you have to plant 20 inches of caliper. In other words, 10 x 2 inch trees. While this does equal the same caliper inches it does not equal the same canopy size. Scientists have determined that the canopy of those 10, 2 inch trees only replaces 10% of the canopy of the 20 inch tree! Eventually, when those 2 inch trees grow to be 20 inch trees (if they do), we will have an increase in tree canopy. But that takes time, another resource we can’t replace! The time it took for that original 20 inch tree to grow. This is one of the reasons we at Tree Guardians feel it is so important to maintain and protect our mature trees.
We can hear the reaction to our idea about protecting mature trees, “Tree Guardians, we cannot afford to maintain and protect our mature trees. We need to encourage ‘economic development’ and allow our trees to be cut down”. Poppycock! Trees are one of the few investments you can make in your towns infrastructure that increase in value over time. Unlike roads, bridges, buildings and other man made things that deteriorate over time and have to be repaired or replaced, trees get better at what they do as they age and grow. They get better at cleaning the air, cooling buildings in summer, mitigating storm water, furnishing habitat, etc. A great piece of research that points this out is “The Large Tree Argument” from 2003. It not only shows that we should be planting large trees, as opposed to the current trend of planting small, ornamental trees. This study also says that one of the worse things a town can do in times of a bad economy is to reduce or cut altogether their tree funding and staff. This hurts them in the long run.
So we at Tree Guardians say, let the politicians decide how much money is to be allotted to take care of their trees, but let the tree experts decide when and how it is to be spent.
June 2, 2013
Park No. 503
It’s a nice sunny Sunday. You decide to take your family out to the local park for a picnic and some outdoor fun. Living in Chicago, one of the greenest cities in the world, there is a park a couple blocks away. So you pack up the wife and kids and put everything in your car. You drive down to the new park you heard about— Park No. 503.
According to the Chicago Park District website, Park No. 503 is located at 8900 S. Green Bay Ave, Chicago, IL 60617. The hours are 6 am to 11 pm; the park supervisor is Gerald Washington and the phone number is 312-747-7661. The description given is “Park No. 503 is located in the South Chicago community.”
According to Wikipedia, “The purchase of the property from notable world-class developers, has put South Chicago at the center of the city’s, and the Nation’s largest lakefront redevelopment effort in the 21st Century. Mixed residential, retail and lake recreation are quietly planned.” McCaffery Lakeside development (600 acres) is adjacent to Park No. 503
It sounds like this is an exciting area to live in and the new park should be something to behold.
Here is a photo of Park No. 503:
Looks pretty nice huh? 100 mature and healthy trees, some huge Cottonwoods, possibly 100 years old.
The only problem is this photo was taken more than 2 ½ years ago. This was before, for some inexplicable reason, the Chicago Park District came in and clear cut all the trees on Park No. 503! “The mature trees in the 18 acre space provided perfect shade for a park.” According to local resident, Dave Vance. “We estimate about 50 full size trees were removed along with 50 medium but healthy trees. I remember one evergreen of medium size.”
Here is a photo of what happened to those 100 trees:
“There were two mountain piles of wood chips from the smaller branches. The large tree logs were loaded onto large flatbed trucks and I guess were sold for profit.” said Vance.
Here is a photo of what Park No. 503 looks like now:
“And still, 2 and 1/2 years later the ‘park’ is nothing. It looks like urban decay. But, it could have been a useful public space.”
Dave Vance and other local residents want the park district to move forward with their plan to turn these now vacant lots into a park the taxpayers can use. They would also like to see more thought put into removal of mature, healthy trees. Evidently, the park planners like to start a park with a “clean slate”. If this is true, it shows a lack of understanding of the value of mature trees and an attitude that wastes valuable resources. Even if other trees had been planted immediately, the time it took to grow those mature trees cannot be replaced.
Tree Guardians has become involved with some of the residents of South Chicago to use our expertise in seeing that future tree planting and tree maintenance is successful. Local residents and politicians need to get involved to see that something like the travesty of Park No. 503 doesn’t happen again. Until then, the designation of Park No. 503 has an ironic twist. There is NO PARK 503!
ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF DAVID VANCE
I recently discovered (kind of like Columbus discovering America, it was already there) the southeastern most part of Chicago. Part of which is called Hegewisch. This is an area that was built up around the steel industry. People moved there to be close to the jobs. Unfortunately, when the steel companies abandoned the area, the jobs disappeared and the area is now “economically challenged”.
Where the old steel mills used to be is a lot of land that has been allowed to go fallow. It is my understanding that the city of Chicago controls this land. I believe the city should turn this land into a community garden, tree nursery and anything else that would benefit the local citizens.
If the city controls it there should be a way to allow citizens to use the grounds to grow food and trees to use, barter and sell. Plots could be distributed on a need basis. In other words, the unemployed and underemployed would have first dibs.
Maybe grants could be obtained through the Millennium Project or other sources to buy seeds, seedlings, biofertilizer, tools etc. Different beautification organizations could grow trees to use on their projects. Low cost trees could be available to local residents.
This was supposed to be taking place upon old US Steel property, near 89th & Ewing by an outfit called Growing Power (http://www.growingpower.org/) but evidently that project had some problems.
Throughout the Chicagoland area, Illinois and the whole country there are probably lots of plots of land that have gone unused. Let’s put these places to use to benefit people that could use them to help themselves have a better life no matter who owns the land.
April 13, 2013
The benefits listed on this sign help all the people, not a select few who make money from cutting the trees down and “developing” the land. One thing about the sign I would change—we need to save ourselves, not Mother Earth. The planet would survive very well without us!
April 6, 2013
Take a look at this photo:
This photo was taken at the Art Museum located at Forest Park, St. Louis, Mo. It is an artist’s idea of a tree. While it is beautiful in it’s own right it pales in comparison to a real tree, like the ones in the background.
There is a guy who has invented an artificial tree.
Klaus Lackner, Ewing-Worzel Professor of Geophysics in the Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering at Columbia University has already built a model. He has spoken to U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu in May of 2009 to explain the concept and he has submitted a proposal to the U.S. Department of Energy.
This technology is not meant to replace carbon capture and storage methods being tested for use on coal-fired power stations. It’s targeting carbon already in the air. “Half of your emissions come from small, distributed sources where collection at the site is either impossible or impractical,” said Professor Lackner, “We aim for applications like gasoline in cars or jet fuel in airplanes. We are going after CO2 that otherwise is nearly impossible to collect.
The magnitude of the task of reducing global carbon emissions is daunting. One day urgent action will need to be taken—when the planet is too warm, ice is melting too fast. In that case, we will need to have a way of pulling the CO2 out of the atmosphere.
The point I am trying to make is that this guy has come up with something that does the same thing as a tree. Granted, it does it better but this is only needed because of the harm humans have done to the atmosphere. It also only has ONE of the benefits a tree does. Trees do many more things than the artificial tree.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery than trees should feel very flattered, they can be imitated but not improved on. We need trees now more then ever. REAL, HEALTHY, MATURE ONES!
April 4, 2013
This is where my rants will appear. I will have a lot to say and maybe even have guest bloggers. Please check back.