The Need for Trees

The urban forest is important to the well-being of our City for a number of reasons. Perhaps the most overlooked reason is the simplest: we like trees. When the first settlers moved to Decatur, they found a sea of grass with a few trees, mainly growing along the river, streams, and creeks.

People knew then that trees provide many things, among them shade in the heat of the summer and a way to block the hot summer and cold winter winds. If you look around the City now, you will notice that approximately one third of the area is occupied by trees. Yes, trees do drop leaves, and we need to take that into consideration, but the proper tree in the proper place can dramatically enhance our homes and our businesses. Trees also trap air-born pollution, which makes them an important part of the infrastructure of a city.

A properly chosen and placed tree can not only shade our houses from the hot summer sun, it can serve to frame and add beauty to them. Trees can raise the value of real estate, by as much as 20 percent. On average, trees add between 5 and 7 percent to the value of a residential lot. This can add up to an extra $5,000 in value to a home. A piece of property with well kept trees usually sells faster than a tree-less one.

Trees can be an important part of a business location by providing not only beauty, but by providing shade to hot concrete and asphalt parking areas. They can also shade the building and air conditioning units, which improves the efficiency of the air conditioners and results in lower electricity costs.

The City of Decatur has made a commitment to maintain and enhance this key part of our infrastructure.

Before You Plant On Your Property

48 hours prior to any expected dig contact JULIE at (800) 892-0123 for utility locates. The City is not a member of JULIE and must be contacted directly. For City locate information call:

  • (217) 875-5705 for water information
  • (217) 424-2747 for sewer information

If you need assistance, please stop by or call our office.

Before You Plant On City Property

Your City Forester would like to discuss options for tree planting with you. Trees are available in the spring and in the fall for planting on or immediately adjacent to City property. There are dozens of varieties of trees available to fit any site in the City, from small trees such as flowering crabapples and redbuds to larger growing trees such as red oaks and red maples. In some areas of the City, these trees would be available at no cost to the resident. In other cases, such as a business location, the tree or trees would cost $40 for a small tree or $50 for a larger tree. The tree or trees would be planted and guaranteed for one year.

Here’s how to contact us:

City of Decatur
Urban Forestry Section
2600 N. Jasper St.
Decatur, IL 62526
(217) 875-4820

Our office hours are Monday through Friday, from 7:30 am until 4:00 pm

After we hear from you, we will contact you to talk about the type of tree and location which would be best for your needs. Also, please remember that a no-cost permit is required before a tree is planted, trimmed or removed from the City right-of-way.

Tree Planting

During the spring and fall months, the Urban Forestry Section conducts tree planting operations. In 1992, 1993, and 1994, federal funds were obtained to plant many hundreds of trees in the inner city area. Additionally, Community Development Block Grant Funds have been made available to plant up to 80 trees per year in these same areas. This has helped improve the conditions of these neighborhoods and in fighting the “heat island” effect resulting from the concentration of summer heat in the concrete and asphalt in the inner city area. The Urban Forestry Section also conducts a “Share the Cost” tree planting program through which many citizens have purchased trees for $40 to $50 per tree for the City to plant on rights-of-way throughout the City. All planting, as well as tree maintenance, is done per City Codes. Tree planting is done with “the right tree in the right place” in mind.

Tree Work

The most important duty that the Urban Forestry Section performs is tree trimming and hazardous tree removal. This program is done all year long, except during snow operations. This usually involves four full-time employees. Only trees growing on City rights-of-way are included in this program, unless a tree growing on private property is blocking the sidewalk, street, or visibility at a street intersection. An important part of this program is a regular program of trimming all trees in an area. This “proactive tree trimming” helps to identify trees which are hazards, to improve the physical condition of the trees, and to keep the trees from hanging too low in the street or over sidewalks. This also helps minimize damage to trees and property caused by wind and ice. Additionally, as a result of this program, the street lights in these areas are more effective in providing for safety at night.


The Urban Forestry Section is responsible for mowing much of the public property in Decatur. These properties include rights-of-way owned by both the City of Decatur and the State of Illinois, and many vacant lots owned by the City. Presently, this Section is responsible for about 300 acres, which includes Central Park in downtown Decatur. This is the only park property maintained by the City of Decatur. All property is mown per an established schedule.

Weed Control

The Forestry Section is also responsible for weed control on rights-of-way. The Urban Forestry Section provides this service and has been very aggressive in improving the efficiency of this service, despite cutbacks in funding and the addition of many acres of land over the past five years.


Another program conducted by the City is the landscaping of almost one hundred sites on major traffic arteries throughout the City. Prior to the creation of this Section in 1990, the City did no landscaping other than Central Park and one flower bed at the Civic Center . This program is done with one full-time employee and several contractors during the summer months.

Flood Abatement

During the summer months, this Section clears the creek channels in Spring Creek, Stevens Creek, and other minor public drainage ways in order to help insure that heavy rains will not cause serious flooding due to the creeks being clogged. This operation involves one full-time employee and two to three temporary employees from two to three months per year.