Wicker Park/Bucktown’s Street Trees to be Safeguarded

Wicker Park/Bucktown’s $2.2 Million Worth of Street Trees to be Safeguarded with Comprehensive Tree-Care Plan

With lean City of Chicago budget, Wicker Park/Bucktown community takes tree care into its own hands

Even before Chicago’s current budget crisis, having the means to optimally care for all of the city’s street trees has been tough. Not to mention, urban street trees live in some pretty hostile conditions. Determined to protect their valuable urban forest, the Wicker Park Bucktown Special Service Area (SSA) #33 and the Wicker Park & Bucktown (WPB) Chamber of Commerce, charged with promoting a vibrant commercial district and quality of life in that community, commissioned a long-term tree-care plan for the local street trees. Completed in September, it’s the first known comprehensive tree-care plan developed by a Chicago community.

Long-term tree care
"Our trees are so important to us that our community master plan calls for preserving and caring for our urban forest," says David Ginople. "We already knew where all our public trees are and what species they are. But we wanted more. We wanted a plan for their long-term care."

To develop the three-year plan, the SSA hired Bartlett Tree Experts, an international firm based in Stamford, CT, with several Chicago-area offices.

Color-coded aerial images of WPB’s Priority One trees"First we created a digital database with more than two dozen observations about the condition and surroundings of each of Wicker Park/Bucktown’s nearly 1,600 public trees," said Erik Grossnickle, a certified arborist and arborist representative with Bartlett Tree Experts. "Then we assigned a treatment priority to each tree. Now we can call up color-coded aerial images of all WPB’s trees and see what needs to be done for each one and when.

And we can continually update the database as things change."

Valued at $2.2 million
Part of the tree assessments that Bartlett conducted entailed estimating the value of each tree. The highest-value tree is a nearly 40-foot-tall honey locust in the Chicago Park District’s Wicker Park. Its estimated value is $21,126. Together the park and street trees throughout the Wicker Park/Bucktown community are worth $2,204,101.

The economic rationale for promoting a healthy urban forest is compelling. Research shows that:

  • Rental rates for commercial offices with high-quality landscapes have been found to be 7% higher.
  • Shoppers say they’ll spend 9% to 12% more for goods and services in central business districts with high-quality tree canopy.
  • Shoppers also say they’ll travel farther and longer to visit a business district with high-quality trees, and spend more time there.
  • Street trees and larger trees in yards can add from 3% to 15% to home values.

Environmental services of $120,000
This in addition to the value of the many environmental services urban trees provide, like providing summer cooling, cutting energy use, cleaning the air and water, and more. Using USDA Forest Service software, Bartlett Tree Experts quantified the annual environmental benefits of Wicker Park/Bucktown’s urban forest. The analysis found that the community’s trees intercept more than 1.1 million gallons of rainfall each year, for instance, helping to reduce storm water runoff, which contributes to flooding. The annual value of that service is $30,443.
The total dollar value of the Wicker Park/Bucktown urban forest’s annual energy conservation, air quality improvement, carbon dioxide reduction and storm water control is $119,856 or $75.81 per tree.

"One day we’d love to be able to hang price tags around each of our trees to show the economic contributions of each one," says the SSA’s Ginople. "The City of Chicago and The Morton Arboretum did that downtown for Arbor Day last year, and it really hit home."

For more information, contact:

Christine Esposito
(773) 637-3939

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