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Panel created to restore Nature Trail in DeKalb

Published: Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013 5:30 a.m. CST • Updated: Friday, Jan. 11, 2013 2:11 p.m. CST

DeKALB – A new panel has been established to restore vegetation ComEd contractors cut along the Nature Trail in DeKalb late last year.

The panel, which will meet for the first time Jan. 29, includes two DeKalb Park District Board commissioners, park district staff, ComEd representatives and two or three members of the public. ComEd crews removed vegetation, including invasive species, along the 1.3-mile path in late November and December, drawing the ire of nearby residents and walkers.

ComEd representatives promised last month to help restore the areas and recently presented the park district with a letter affirming their commitment, which was read at Wednesday’s board meeting. Utility company leaders have met with district staff twice in recent weeks to discuss the trail.

“We will work with the panel to create a long-term sustainable plan for the trail that will consider methods of vegetation management along the entire trail that are compatible with the high voltage electrical lines and erosion control, while at the same time promoting the wildlife habitat and aesthetics,” Fidel Marquez, ComEd’s chief governmental and community relations officer, wrote in the letter.

The standing-room-only crowd at Wednesday’s meeting seemed suspicious of ComEd and its motives, but applauded park board Secretary Phil Young, who said he was troubled when he walked along the trail a couple of weeks ago.

Young also suggested a legal review of the park district’s rights in these situations and exploring a local ordinance that requires entities to plant a new tree for every tree they cut down.

In addition, Young wants to explore how the district leaders can utilize volunteerism, nursery and other local business sponsors, prairie restoration and native vegetation as they addressed the vegetation along the Nature Trail.

He promised to do what he could to rectify the situation.

“I’m sorry that under my watch this occurred,” Young said, which drew applause from the crowd.

Angela Bollinger, whose parents live near the trail, handed park board members a petition with more than 700 signatures. The petition asked local leaders to create regulations to prevent similar clearing in the future and to make sure ComEd replaced the vegetation with trees that will grow between 15 and 35 feet high. The trees, as well as new native plantings, should create the “protected corridor the Nature Trail once had,” the petition stated.

Former DeKalb Mayor Bessie Chronopolous emphasized that ComEd’s letter did not include a financial commitment.

“I don’t want that financial burden to come back on the taxpayers,” Chronopolous said.

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