NEMF – Northeast Municipal Foresters

Who are the Northeast Municipal Foresters?

Years ago, when I was a young forester right out of Michigan State University, I started work for the Village of Mount Prospect, Illinois.  I had done well in school but had no practical experience in the field.  Soon I was struggling with the realities of my job and feeling really out of my element. One day I got a call from Erwin Page, the forester for Arlington Heights, the town next to mine.  Erwin had heard that Mount Prospect had hired a forester, and he offered to introduce me to other area foresters at an upcoming meeting.  That was how I first learned about the group now known as the Northeast Municipal Foresters.  I owe a real debt of gratitude to Erwin, because this group has had a major influence on my career.  In fact, but for the support I received from these foresters, I’m not sure I would even have remained in the field of arboriculture.

The meeting locations and many of the faces have changed since those days in the late 70’s when we used to meet at Hackney’s in Glenview, but the basics remain the same. We are still a group of area municipal foresters who gather informally once a month to network, listen to a presentation, and afterwards have lunch. We usually take the summer months off.  There is no cost except for our food, which nowadays is usually five or six dollars for pizza. (I have to admit I still miss those bricks of onion rings from Hackney’s, though!)  Depending on the length of the presentation, we sometimes start the meetings now with an “open microphone” session, where members of the audience can bring up any topic for a group discussion.

The meetings cover a wide range of topics of interest to municipal foresters, though other arborists are always welcome to join us. Some recent examples are GIS mapping, tree planting policies, tree hazard assessment, invasive insects, and wood utilization.  The speakers are usually researchers, consultants, commercial or municipal arborists, or nursery personnel. Sometimes we hear from other municipal staff such as engineers or human resource professionals. Vendors have also spoken about pertinent issues, though we try not to let the meetings become a venue for sales pitches. The Northeast Municipal Foresters are now considered the municipal branch of the Illinois Arborist Association, and Certified Arborists typically receive CEU’s for attending our presentations.

After we left Hackney’s our “home base” eventually moved for awhile to Oak Lawn, where Heather Green did a wonderful job hosting the meetings. Now our “home base” is at Mount Prospect Public Works, but we move around as needed, depending on who’s speaking.

Over the years I personally have learned a great deal from the presentations, but I’ve gained even more from the many conversations with my fellow municipal arborists. When I’m struggling with a particular issue, it’s great to be able to go to the next meeting and ask the group, “How do you handle this in your town”?  Invariably I get some really useful ideas, along with the names of people I can follow up with after the meeting. Many of the successes I’ve had in my career have been based on ideas I’ve gotten from my fellow municipal foresters at these meetings. How wonderful it was to learn years ago that I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel each time an unfamiliar problem arose!

I invite you to join us and see for yourself.  Better yet, call up the forester from the town next to yours, or maybe your Park District staff, and invite them along as well. Our meeting calendar is posted on the IAA website, and you can get the announcements emailed directly to you by contacting April Toney at 877-617-8887.

By Sandy Clark, Forestry/Grounds Superintendent, Village of Mount Prospect


Upcoming NEMF Meetings 


Date:  Thursday, May 19, 2016

Location:  Lombard Village Hall

Title: Bottom-Up or Top-Down: The Changing Approaches to Urban Forest Management

Description: Offered a range of tools, Urban Foresters have a choice of both top-down (e.g. urban tree canopy analysis) and bottom-up (e.g. tree inventory) approaches to measuring the urban forest. With diverse, real-world examples, this talk will provide an overview of existing urban forest management tools  –such as GIS and tree inventories — and explore their applications. Attention will be given to emerging technology and innovative ways data can be analyzed to measure progress and assess urban forests.

Cost: $5 for Lunch

Please RSVP: April Toney at or call 877-617-8887.


Date: Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Location: Chinatown beginning at 24th and Wentworth and a walk along the parkways leading to Ping Tom Park (~1 mile) Meeting location: GPS 41.848238, -87.631735

Title: Hot Tea, Bamboo or Tree: A Tree Walk in Chinatown

Description: in 2007, a seemingly difficult greening challenge was solved; how to beautify a section of parkway that would otherwise have fallen victim to vandalism and graffiti. The challenge was successfully met and yielded many benefits for the community and local zoo inhabitants.

Speakers: Jeff Brink, Senior City Forester of the Chicago GreenStreets Program will be guiding a tour of the parkway trees and tree alternatives for the urban clime Trees and bamboo planted in extremely difficult sites will be examined. Daniella Pereira, Regional Forester for Openlands. Topics covered:

  • Past and Present
  • Systematic Diversification
  • Identification References
  • Surroundings and Context Clues
  • Patterns and Branching
  • Habit and Identification

Cost: $5 for Lunch

Please RSVP: April Toney at or call 877-617-8887.


Date: Thursday, November 17, 2016

Location: Spring Grove Nursery

Title: What’s Growing On?

Description: Join NEMF in the field at Spring Grove Nursery for an up close look at nursery tree production. Find out how trees are grown, what new & exciting tree varieties are “growing on” for the future, and what the forecasts are for the tree supply in coming years. Come out to the nursery & see for yourself “what’s growing on” out in the field.

Speakers: Becky Thomas, OGA

Please RSVP: April Toney at or call 877-617-8887.

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