Were approaching the first anniversary of the July 5 storm that took thousands of tree lives. Rockford is still reeling from the devastation, though a commitment from the citizens makes it appear that the victims will be replaced with quality young trees of good species.
Yet, in late spring, another storm rolled into town on wheels with malicious intent for trees near power lines. These are the Asplundh trucks hired by ComEd. They look innocent enough and even bring back memories of the massive post-storm cleanup that gave us power back. But Asplundh crews are acting like so many General Shermans cutting swaths of destruction down one street after another. Theyve done more damage than the storm.
On Wednesday, May 26, they damaged the trees on our property while I was at work. I came home to find more than 20 trees either topped or grotesquely cut to the point of non-recognition, and woodland wildflowers underneath were destroyed by trampling. Tim Burton or Stephen King couldnt have made things look more horrible. I felt terrible. In the next two days, this Asplundh crew hacked its way to Prospect Avenue. I must apologize. I was too angry to write this until now.
The following day, I called my alderman, Doug Mark, and he came over to see the aftermath. It wasnt long before Mark was conversing with other aldermen about the ComEd problems as other complaints poured in. Before the June 14 City Council meeting, Mark and Alderman Pat Curran agreed to address the Council on the problem, which they did.
On May 16, Pat Curran appeared on WTVO and WIFRs 5 and 6 p.m. news concerning ComEds tree damaging. It was the lead story on both channels. Pat was interviewed in front of his house at the corner of Chicago Avenue and Rural Street. He explained about the damage Asplundh was doing with their reckless trimming. Carefully, he explained that trees could and should be cut to minimize potential wire damage, yet be kinder to the tree and aesthetically pleasing to the eye, which is the way trees are to be cut in Rockford according to the Rockford tree cutting ordinance. Curran said that Asplundh is actually killing trees because theyre cut so aggressively that the trees will die in five to eight years. Both TV stations showed footage of his favorite tree, which he planted 30 years ago, now doomed to die in a few short years because of Asplundh tree mutilation.
I spoke to Doug Mark again on June 18. He assured me that Rockford trees would be cut by local standards, not by federal guidelines, which are unacceptable by our standards. Rockford is known as the Forest City because its streets are lined with good, mature trees, said Mark.
Rockford will make a sincere effort to replace trees destroyed on July 5 last year. Ironically, ComEd is donating a large number of trees to help this effort. Another thanks should go to industrialist John Anderson of Anderson Gardens fame. He donated 200 American elms of a genetic strain that are Dutch elm disease-resistant. These elms will help fill the void left by July 5, 2003.
Mark thanked me for calling him, and he wanted me to thank the others who spoke out. The remaining trees, which are the majority, will be trimmed properly. Its too bad some damage has already occurred, said Mark. Some crews seemed to be worse than others. ComEd said that residents who wished that their trees [damaged by ComEd] be replaced, should contact ComEd, and they would take down trimmed trees and replace them with young and even more appropriate species, if need be.
As I write this last paragraph, Im on the patio deck facing the Asplundh carnage. I feel angrier about this than when the storm came through because storms dont know any better, but man does. This is such a nice wooded neighborhood I just moved to. Actually, its the one I grew up in. I saw so many different birds around here this morning: cerulean warblers, indigo buntings and even a scarlet tanager. Really, you couldnt tell that a storm ripped through here a year ago. But for many years, youll know one of ComEds General Shermans marched through.
Rod Myers is a local resident with an interest in the environment and disability issues. He has an associates degree in science and a bachelors in fine arts. Rod is a member of the Audubon Society, the Wild Ones Natural Landscapers and Rockford Amateur Astronomers, Inc.