The health of trees in Jackson Park


To the Editor:

Erin Adam’s recent letter “Jackson Park needs help from OPC” asserts that “…the future site of the OPC is currently in a state of environmental crisis….”  She then goes on to make a number of inaccurate statements focusing on the trees on the site.  We’d like to offer some factual corrections.

Adams refers to the recent professional assessment by Bartlett Tree Experts of the hundreds of trees on the site (640 when the inventory was conducted).  It found a diverse assortment of 42 species, with 448 in good condition (the highest rating), most of them healthy and mature.  The report, commissioned by the Obama Foundation itself and containing recommendations for the care of the trees, not their destruction, can be read in full at

Most of the 19 dead trees were ash. The major attention 413 trees were found to require is regular pruning, maintenance the Park District has failed to provide. Only 20 trees, or 3%, were found to require special soil treatment, although proper mulching – again something the Park District should have been providing regularly – was recommended for all.   The study recommended the removal of 64 trees, 10%, either because of poor condition or location too close to other trees or utilities.

Interestingly, Bartlett Tree Experts estimated the total asset value of the trees on the OPC site at the time of the inventory at slightly over $3.5 million dollars.  Individual mature trees were valued up to $33,000 plus.

Another point of note in the report is the listing of the environmental services that the trees on the proposed OPC site now provide.  For example, these trees store 203.8 tons of carbon in their tissues annually and remove an additional 5.8 tons from the air.  They remove 341.5 points of air pollution and have an annual avoided runoff value of 9,591 cubic feet.  While the Obama Foundation says it will plant new trees, it would take many decades for those newly planted trees to provide the same level of beneficial environmental services.

Whether the OPC will be built on this site and, if so, what the design will be remains to be determined.  In the meantime, it is best that the discussion of the Jackson Park site be based on the facts, not fiction.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid

Co-presidents, Jackson Park Watch