DeKALB – Months after ComEd cleared a bunch of trees around the DeKalb Nature Trail, relations between certain members of the public and DeKalb park commissioners still are raw.
An update on the group that would restore the nature trail devolved an open question-and-answer session between park commissioners and Angela Bollinger, one citizen who has been very vocal on the tree issue.
Bollinger said she was hoping to get answers to questions she and other concerned individuals have had.
“Are park district officials coming into these meetings informed?” Bollinger said. “Just because ComEd said it’s appropriate, doesn’t mean it is.”
In November, work crews hired by ComEd cleared 1.3 miles of trees and brush along a prairie path between Sycamore Road and First Street. Residents like Bollinger have voiced anger at the destruction they saw, and have demanded ComEd to be held liable.
ComEd has an easement along the power lines in the area, allowing them to clear any brush near those lines.
Park commissioner Mike Teboda shared some of the criticism he has received since then. He said people have accused him of lying and being a lackey for ComEd, while others have demanded his resignation.
Bollinger spoke up during a public meeting Thursday when park commissioner Phil Young was talking about the first meeting of a group that consisted of park district officials and staff, some concerned residents, a nature expert and ComEd officials.
For the next 15 minutes, Bollinger engaged board president Joan Berkes Hanson on the park district’s commitment to restoring the nature trail. Bollinger asked why the park district hasn’t taken advantage of free tree saplings offered by a nearby forest preserve. Hanson replied that it would be irresponsible to grow trees that large that would eventually be cleared by ComEd.
“It is not ComEd’s decision to dictate what should be grown there,” Bollinger said.
Hanson said she is committed to restoring the nature trail so it is exceptional and sustainable.
But she added that living up to the community’s expectations might be impossible.
The park board will get a second opinion on the easement ComEd has along the Nature Trail, something Bollinger was asking for. The board voted to not spend more than $1,000 on this.
Bollinger and Hanson were split in their view of ComEd. Bollinger believes ComEd is deceiving the board in how liable they are for the tree clearing.
Hanson said she is trying to strike a more diplomatic approach to the situation, adding that according to their attorney, there is very little they can mandate ComEd to do.
“I’m stern but not confrontational with them,” Hanson said. “We have to work together. If we push too far ... I don’t feel like we’re at that point.”