St. Charles’ Tree Commission Rolls Out Urban Forestry Management Plan

by AJ Reineking, Public Services Manager,

The City’s Tree Commission recently completed the first iteration of the Urban Forestry Management Plan, which is essentially a guidebook to outline the proper maintenance and care of the City’s parkway trees. The development of this plan is a strategic goal established for the Commission by ordinance, and reflects a major milestone in the sustainability efforts put forth by the City.

This document is timely in its unveiling as the City has just completed a massive tree replacement program as a result of the devastation caused by the Emerald Ash Borer, which wiped out approximately a quarter of the parkway trees throughout the community. As these new trees take root, and the Public Works forestry staff transitions from triage to routine maintenance, the Urban Forestry Management Plan will help to guide operations by implementing best management practices throughout the industry.

Several of the programs or procedures outlined in the plan are simply documentation of the City’s current practices or recitals of current policies.  For example, the City currently maintains an acceptable and unacceptable tree species planting list for parkways in Chapter 12.20.030 of the City Code, and Chapter 8.30 of the Code speaks to Tree Preservation in Construction Zones.

However, other areas of the Management Plan pertain to new goals to pursue or advance over the next 20 years, such as implementing the 20-10-5 Rule which has to do with diversity planting.  Under this practice, the City’s public tree population should consist of no more than 20% of any one taxonomic family, 10% of any one Genus, or 5% of any one species.  The City’s spring planting is underway. Once complete, this fiscal year we will have planted 270 trees, including 40 different species.

Several other goals of the plan address the implementation of new programs that we have historically not engaged in. Such programs include regularly updating the tree inventory and conducting routine risk assessments of the City’s urban forest. These activities will limit the City’s risk exposure and ensure that any trees that may pose a threat to persons or property can be addressed before a hazard is realized.

Public Works staff is currently working with the City’s Information Systems Department to develop a mobile platform so we can update the inventory and assess the trees from the field and sync all the data to the GIS mapping system.

All such programs are vital to the success an Urban Forest and are called out in detail in this Management Plan.

All-in-all, the City has been a proud Tree City for 19 years. The Tree Commission has prepared a document that gives St. Charles the opportunity to be a premier community in terms of Urban Forestry and sustainability going into the future.