JOLIET – In May, Joliet will begin planting the first of 500 trees this spring, making Arbor Day look particularly promising this year.
Joliet has a program to plant 1,000 trees a year over the next seven years to replace ash trees cut down because of the emerald ash borer.
In addition to the spring planting, another 500 trees will be planted in the fall.
“It means a lot to Joliet residents,” City Arborist Jim Teiber said this week at a Joliet City Council meeting. During the meeting, Arbor Day, which is Friday, was recognized with a proclamation.
“We’re going to lose thousands of trees,” Teiber added. “It’s important that now we’re going to reforest those areas that are losing trees.”
Teiber later estimated Joliet has cut down at least 5,000 ash trees infested with the emerald ash borer in recent years. The insect has killed ash trees across the country.
Anywhere from 2,000 to 5,000 more ash trees could be removed from the public parkways because of the infestation, he said.
“Last year alone we did about 1,300 trees,” he said.
That has left a lot of bare spaces in Joliet neighborhoods.
Joliet takes a certain pride in its trees. The city is in its 24th consecutive year of being recognized as a Tree City USA, a designation awarded by the Arbor Day Foundation for communities that meet certain qualifications.
Those qualifications include having an Arbor Day observance, which Joliet held Tuesday at William B. Orenic Intermediate School.
Tree City USA communities also must budget at least $2 per capita in a forestry program, have a tree care ordinance, and have a Tree Board.
Rita Renwick, a longtime member of the Joliet Tree Board, spoke about the importance of being a Tree City USA at the City Council meeting where Arbor Day was proclaimed.
“It makes Joliet a better place to live,” Renwick told the council.
The importance of trees certainly has been recognized in subdivisions hard hit by ash tree removal. Residents have called City Hall to complain at times when ash tree removal left the neighborhood looking barren.
Councilman Larry Hug said tree replacement is one of the top three concerns of his constituents.
“The neighborhoods do look naked, and they will continue to look naked for a few years because you can’t plant a full-grown tree,” Hug said.
But, he said, residents are glad to hear more trees are coming.