Local towns ask residents to help water trees

July 27, 2012 (OAK PARK, Ill.)

Residents are being called on to help keep trees in their neighborhoods alive by watering the ones that are near their properties.

"The most important thing you can do for a new tree is water," said Jim Semelka, Oak Park forester.

With tens of thousands of trees to care for, a little help can go a long way, especially during this extremely dry summer.

"We've been watering since May," Semelka said.

And with tree damage left to clean up after summer storms, the village is low on manpower. Keeping up with the more than 400 trees they plant a year is getting difficult.

"Because the draught was so early and the heat was so intense, we are seeing these draught effects on trees that were planted two or even three years ago," said Semelka.

The village has placed bags called "gator bags" around the base of the young trees to preserve them.

"They hold about 30 gallons and they have pinholes at the bottom and that lets the water come out slowly so it doesn't run off," Semelka said.

As for the other trees, crews are reaching to community members for help. And longtime Oak Park resident Gary Cole is happy to oblige.

"I know it really doesn't make any sense to water the grass, so I let that go. But I water the hedges, trees, particularly the trees because there is no one that can come around I water them," he said.

Cole said he believes that type of care can really make a difference in preserving the look of a well-kept street.

And when Dutch elm disease killed many large elms on this street, Cole wants to do all he can to help the new trees grow.

"For them to get a good start and last as long the other ones that were cut down that we probably should water them," Cole said.

Naperville and Evanston are also asking residents to water public trees.

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