The City of Sterling is dedicated to maintaining and expanding its curren urban tree population. Please refer to this page for any tree-related information such as tree removal practices, general tree care, Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) information, and tree trimming practices.
Your Tree Questions Answered
How do I determine if a tree is City-owned?
On public residential streets, City-owned trees grow in the parkway or right-of-way (ROW) - the strip of land between the sidewalk and the street. If you are unsure if a tree is on City property, call the Code Enforcement Department at (815) 632-6624. They will either answer your question over the phone or visit the location to determine ownership.
Tree Trimming on Private Property
Any tree or shrub on private property which hangs over any sidewalk, street or other place in the city in such a way as to impede or interfere with traffic or travel on the public place shall be trimmed by the owner of the premises on which the tree or shrub grows so that the obstruction shall cease.
The City of Sterling does not maintain trees located on private property. Citizens should contact a professional tree service to trim and/or remove trees located on private property.
Tree Trimming for Public/Parkway Trees
Residents that would like a parkway tree to be trimmed or if the tree is in poor condition and would like it considered for removal and replacement need to contact the Public Works Department at 815-632-6657. Once contact has been made with Public Works, staff will evaluate the condition of the tree and then the schedule maintenance activity as time and resources are available.
No person shall trim or cut any public tree or part thereof which is on or overhangs public property or any street or alley without first securing permission from the City Tree Board and procuring a trimming license.
Residents are not directly charged for parkway tree trimming since it is a service provided by the City on City-owned trees.
City tree removal occurs when a tree is dead or dying, a tree is considered irreparably hazardous, a tree is causing an obstruction that is impossible to correct through pruning, a tree is crowding and causing harm to other trees, a tree is to be replaced by a more suitable specimen, or to allow for new construction. The City of Sterling will only remove trees on City property.
The City shall have the right to cause the removal of any dead or diseased trees on private property within the City, when such trees constitute a hazard to life and property, or harbor insects or disease which constitutes a life-threatening risk to other trees within the City. Any trees on private property are the responsibility of the property owner. Please see the City’s Tree Ordinance for more information about property owner responsibilities.
If a tree is removed, will another one be planted?
The City of Sterling has dedicated itself to planting two trees for every one tree that is removed. Two replacement trees will be planted if the abutting property owner requests a replacement tree, if the location(s) is suitable for a new tree, and if sufficient funding is available.
Trees on Private Property
Trees and tree branches in the back yard or private property are a civil issue between neighbors. If unable to resolve you can try Dispute Resolution or contact an attorney.
City of Sterling Tree Board
The City of Sterling has a Tree Board for the purpose of handling tree-related issues. In working with the City, it shall be the responsibility of the City Tree Board to study, investigate, council, develop and/or update annually, and administer a written plan for the care, preservation, pruning, planting, replanting, removal or disposition of trees and shrubs in City parks, along streets and in other public areas. The board, when requested by the City Council, shall consider, investigate, make findings, report and recommend upon any special matter of question coming within the scope of its work.
Q: There are limbs in the ROW that fell during a storm. Who is responsible for removing these limbs?
A: Only during a severe storm in which the Public Works Superintendent issues a city-wide cleanup will the City take care of fallen branches in the ROW. During regular circumstances, it is the responsibility of the property owner to take care of their ROW.
Q: My tree has broken limbs over a utility line. Who should I call to remove these limbs?
A: If you see a broken tree limb lying on a powerline or likely to fall on a powerline, please report it by calling 1-800-EDISON-1. Always stay clear of tree limbs near powerlines and do not make contact with the tree. If possible, also notify neighbors to stay clear.
Q: My tree has low-hanging branches over the sidewalk. Do I trim these or does the City?
A: You need to trim those branches. Any tree or shrub on private property which hangs over any sidewalk in such a way as to impede or interfere with traffic or travel on the public place shall be trimmed by the owner of the abutting premises on which the tree or shrub grows so that the obstruction shall cease.
Q: Who do I call about tree on the right-of-way with a dead branch hanging over the road?
A: City of Sterling Public Works Department. Residents that would like a parkway tree to be trimmed or if the tree is in poor condition and would like it considered for removal and replacement need to contact the Public Works Department at 815-632-6657. Once contact has been made with Public Works, staff will evaluate the condition of the tree and then the schedule maintenance activity as time and resources are available.
Emerald Ash Borer
The Sterling City Tree Board is taking early action to prepare for the arrival of an insect that most likely will kill the majority of ash trees in the Sterling area. The emerald ash borer, known as EAB, is a small (1/2 inch long, 1/8 in wide) metallic green beetle native to Asia. The larvae stage is spent feeding under the bark of the tree, creating channels, known as galleries, which restrict the tree’s circulatory system. The borer eventually girdles and kills the tree.
EAB was discovered in southeastern Michigan in 2002 and has since spread through Quebec, Connecticut, Minnesota, New York, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Since the first discovery of EAB, millions of ash trees have died. EAB was first discovered in Illinois in 2006 and has devastated the ash tree population, resulting many times with a 90% loss, as it has tracked across northern Illinois. As a result of the invasion, shipments of ash nursery trees and ash logs with bark are now regulated, and transporting firewood outside of a quarantined area is illegal.
The Sterling City Tree Board is taking a proactive approach to informing residents of the issues that will be associated with EAB. On July 22nd, 2013, the State of Illinois confirmed Whiteside County to be a quarantined county for EAB. Although the EAB has not been discovered in Sterling yet, it has been found in Lee and Whiteside Counties. In 2012, the Sterling City Tree Board joined forces with Emily Hanson, Illinois Urban Forestry Volunteer Coordinator, to organize an ash tree tagging program in the City of Sterling along right of ways. The program discovered less than 200 ash trees in Sterling right of ways.
A survey of ash trees on City right of way was conducted on Saturday, September 29th 2012. Ash trees were tagged with a ribbon and an informational card describing EAB. From this tree tagging and EAB research and education, the City adopted the Tree Board's recommended Emerald Ash Borer Managment Plan.
For more information on EAB, please contact the Assistant to the City Manager, Hadley Skeffington-Vos. For further information on EAB, please check out www.emeraldashborer.info. If you suspect that your tree is infected with EAB, please contact Public Works at 815-632-6657, a certified arborist, or the State of Illinois Forestry Department.
EAB on Your Property
To determine whether a tree on your private property is an ash tree or not, please contact a local arborist or consult this website. To determine whether your tree is on City ROW, please contact the Sterling Public Works Department at 815-632-6657.
In order to prevent EAB from killing your ash tree, there are two options:
1. Remove and replace your ash tree
2. Inject the ash tree with chemical treatments.
There are several local companies that treat ash trees for EAB. These companies include: McCormick's Nursery and Garden Center, Skoog Landscape and Design, Sission Lawn and Landscape, and TruGreen. For more information on the chemical injection treatment, please review The Emerald Ash Borer website or read this document.
Tree City USA
The City of Sterling became a Tree City USA during 2012. Each year, the City will continue to re-apply for the designation. To be designated a Tree City, a community must meet four core standards of sound urban forestry management: maintaining a tree board or department, having a community tree ordinance, spending at least $2 per capita on urban forestry and celebrating Arbor Day each year.
Small towns, boroughs and townships, big cities, villages and military installations have seen the benefits of participation in the Tree City USA program. Whether it's creating a foundation for tree care or expanding an innovative community tree program or project, the benefits are numerous:
Framework for Action
The four core standards for becoming a Tree City USA provide the framework and direction for the strategic management of community trees. Many communities use Tree City USA standards as a way to begin caring for the urban forest. Others regularly enhance their management through improved ordinances, innovative programs and increased emphasis on planting and tree care.
Annual participation as a Tree City USA community provides the opportunity to educate people who care about their community about the value of tree resources, the importance of sustainable tree management and engage individuals and organizations in advancing tree planting and care across the urban forest. Tree City USA status can create a strong working relationship with your state forestry agency and other conservation groups.
Public Image and Community Pride
Participation in the Tree City USA program helps residents feel good about the place they live and work. Annual recognition shows visitors and prospective residents that trees, conservation and the environment are an important part of life in the community.
Pride in public trees also leads to more engaged residents and better care for new and existing trees on private property.
Tree City USA participation presents an opportunity to educate the public about your community's urban forestry program and showcase the benefits of community trees. Recognition can also generate interest from other organizations and communities that aren't yet managing their trees as well as they might. As one forester put it, "This is advertising that money can't buy — and it is free!"
Tree boards, parks departments, public works officials and volunteers, alike, are recognized for the valuable work they provide to the community through sustainable tree management. Many communities share in their Tree City USA recognition across city departments, elected officials, volunteers, students and business leaders.
Additional Tree Information
City of Sterling Tree Ordinance
City of Sterling Recommended Tree Species List
City of Sterling EAB Management Plan
Street Tree Planting brochure
Ash Tree Replacement brochure
Emerald Ash Borer Information
Information on EAB for Sterling Residents
Tree Trimming License Application
Yard Waste Pickup Information
City of Sterling Tree Guide Part 1
City of Sterling Tree Guide Part 2