|Scott Carlini in the Cook County Forest Preserve.|
Scott Carlini rides west along Bloomingdale Avenue on a lovely mid-November day. At 79th Avenue, we detour south and park our bikes before a wide tree stump where the night before Carlini had penciled “White Oak” and “163 yo.”
He points to the center of the stump.
“Here’s the little tree, 160 years ago,” he says. “If you notice, the rings are really small here when the tree was young because it was in a crowded forest. Then in 1926, they came in here and cleared out the forest and started building some of these bungalows. Once the area was opened up to more light, then we’ve got the big rings, because it grew a lot faster.”
Carlini knows trees, but then he’s spent years biking around Elmwood Park, neighboring suburbs and Chicago, trying to save trees, particularly ash, which he sometimes injects with his own formula of anti-emerald ash borer insecticide. Carlini cuts a distinctive figure: long hair, neon orange vest and stocking cap, Pall Mall cigarette often in one hand.
“Oh boy, oh boy,” he says, sadly. “See here? Where they filed the roots away. That’s super bad. It’s stupid.”
The white oak fell victim to a human ailment — the conviction that sidewalks must run straight.
“In the old days, we used to move the sidewalk around it,” he says. “Normally this tree would have lasted another 200 years if it wasn’t damaged. But some sidewalk guy ground that away, and that’s not cool.”
To continue reading, click here.