Why Glen Ellyn could replace most of the trees downtown

  • Glen Ellyn officials are considering replacing most of the trees in the village's downtown as part of a streetscape plan they believe will result in healthier trees.

      Glen Ellyn officials are considering replacing most of the trees in the village's downtown as part of a streetscape plan they believe will result in healthier trees. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

Updated 1/27/2020 8:23 PM

Streets lined with established trees help give downtown Glen Ellyn its charm.

So plans to replace not just a few, but most of the trees in the business district should raise some eyebrows.


To try to stave off that reaction, a team of arborists, engineers and landscape architects is preparing to launch a public education campaign to explain why they're proposing to reforest downtown as part of a major streetscape project.

Two options will come before a capital improvements commission meeting and a village board workshop. Both call for chopping down a majority of the 109 trees downtown because of declining condition, a lack of species diversity and the unlikelihood of surviving the disruption of road and streetscape construction.

But both options also call for adding 100 to 115 new trees where there are none now.

"The bottom line is there's some health issues with the trees down there now because they really don't have great places for them to thrive," Assistant Village Manager Bill Holmer said. "So what they want to do is to cut most of the trees down but replant ... with more and create more of that urban forest downtown but with better potting and places for the trees to root and grow."

Forty of the 109 trees downtown need to be taken down and replaced based on poor condition, according to a five-page memo. A 2018 survey of downtown trees conducted by the village's forestry consultant also determined that 53 trees, or 49%, were in poor or fair condition.

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Most of the tree stock downtown -- 53% -- are honey locusts, while 13% are Callery pear trees, a species vulnerable to gray mold and wood rot. Reforesting parkways with a wider array of varieties would protect against population loss in the event a disease or pest wreaks havoc on a species.

One option would replace 95 trees, preserve 14 for future replacement and add 100 to 115. The other option would add the same number of new trees, but uproot 70 trees and try to keep 39 -- 25 of which would potentially be spared during construction.

But the project team cautions those trees stand in proximity to underground utility work and sidewalk and curb construction, which likely would "severely impact" their root structure.

Last summer, the village board discussed a reforestation plan. Now, the board will study the proposal at a block-by-block level.

Either way, the downtown would have an estimated 185 to 225 trees after the project is completed. New trees also would be planted on blocks that currently do not have any in the public right of way.


The village would provide a better environment for the trees to take root, reach maturity and enjoy a longer life span by using a system called Silva Cell.

"It's a type of material for the roots to grow in that's more conducive than what we've got now which is under sidewalks and utility lines," Village Manager Mark Franz said. "So you kind of carve out a larger area and fill it with the material that allows them to grow."

Still in the design phase, the overall streetscape plan encompasses new sidewalks, resurfaced roads, reconfigured parking and new underground utilities.

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