Tree Replacement Program

Dear Property Owner,

In the wake of the Emerald Ash Borer crisis, the City of Rockford is pleased to announce that a tree replacement program is available to all property owners within the corporate limits of the city. It is important to note however that these trees must be planted on the parkway (generally, the grass area between the City sidewalk and the curb) adjacent to your home and are not intended for planting on your private property.

Included below, you will find specific criteria regarding where a tree can be planted based on existing utilities, width of parkway and proximity to intersections, driveways or utility poles. Not all properties will be deemed appropriate for a new planting even if there was a tree in that location previously.

Once the City Forester or his representative has approved your site for a new tree, he will select a species that is appropriate for your planting space and advise you of approximately when it will be planted. Most new trees are planted in the spring or fall. Property owners must agree to water the new trees regularly and refresh the mulch at the base of the tree annually.

To request a new tree, please call our office at 779-348-7260 between the hours of 7 am and 3:30 pm, Monday through Friday.

Thank you for your interest in reforesting the City of Rockford.


Mitch Leatherby
Street/Forestry Superintendent

City of Rockford Tree Planting Policy

Type of Street Terrace

Before selecting a tree for a street terrace, we must determine the type of street terrace that is in front of your home. This will determine what you can plant in the street terrace.

In the City of Rockford, street terraces can be classified into four main groups:

  • Closed Terraces are defined as areas located between the curb and sidewalks. Generally, closed terraces are found in older residential areas but at times will be found in newer residential areas. These areas are heavily planted with trees, which have to compete for space with utilities, signs, street lights, and other objects.
  • Open Terraces can be defined as areas that are not defined by sidewalks. Generally, open terraces are found in fewer residential areas. There are generally fewer obstructions to trees, as lawn spaces are larger and utility lines are frequently buried or located in the rear of the properties.
  • Boulevard Terraces can be defined as a street terrace in the middle of the roadway. It is interesting that boulevards were introduced in Paris, France in the mid 1800s as a way to control troop movement. Tree lined boulevards provide troops with some measure of defense.
  • Business Terraces are the most difficult areas for tree planting, as visibility problems are most severe and impact on people is greatest. Width requirement for business terraces warrants further discussion under its own classification. Contact the City Forester for specific instructions before planting in business terraces.

Width of the Street Terrace

The width of the street terrace will determine what can be planted in the street terrace. No trees will be allowed on any street terrace that is less than four feet (4 feet) in width. It has been determined that a four foot (4') street terrace cannot provide sufficient space for growth of a tree, and safe pedestrian and vehicle passage. Small confined areas create additional stress on the trees, making them more susceptible to insect and disease problems, which increase control efforts and maintenance costs.

Size of the Tree

Many people fondly remember when streets were lined and canopied by large elms, oaks, maples and other species. However, modern-day street designs have changed. Streets and boulevards are made much wider; older streets are enlarged, utilities both above and below ground are more numerous, all reducing space for trees.

Early street terrace planting programs encouraged close spacing, with as little as 20 to 30 feet for visual impact. Width of the street terrace and other constraints on available growing space were not a factor in the selection of the mature size of the tree chosen for planting.

Close spacing did create immediate visual impact, but no so obvious was the impact on future management costs. Trees planted close together became more expensive to maintain as they matured. When street terrace trees are planted in tight groupings, it creates additional pruning demands. Live branches from adjacent trees interfere with each other, and increased shading creates more deadwood.

Confined spacing of trees also creates additional stress on the trees, making them more susceptible to insect and disease problems, which in turn increases control efforts and maintenance costs. Dutch Elm disease is a clear example of disease transmission through root grafts from close spacing.

As a rule, trees should be placed so that they can develop freely without crowding each other, buildings, utility lines or other structures. As trees develop in street terraces, the safe passage of pedestrian and vehicle traffic must be provided for.

Frequently a person will select a tree based on how they like a certain type of tree for its color and shape, giving little regard to how large it will grow. As the tree grows, we commonly see trees growing into overhead utility lines, breaking sidewalks and curbs, obscuring signs, creating traffic hazards, and growing out of scale with respect to their surroundings.

Large trees will seldom find a place along the street terrace of today. Street terraces will be composed of small and medium growing trees. Even medium trees may grow too large for some street terraces.

Tree Size Classes

In the City of Rockford, trees are grouped by mature height into three size classes:

  • Small Trees - 30 feet tall or less when mature
    Minimum 5 to 6 foot terrace width required
  • Medium Trees - 30 feet tall to 50 feet tall when mature
    Minimum 7 to 10 foot terrace width required
  • Large Trees - 50 feet tall or larger when mature
    Minimum 11 foot terrace width required

Choosing the Right Spot for Street Terrace Planting

Minimum Distance From Objects & Sight of Vision in Street Terraces

Paved Surfaces10 Feet
Fire Hydrants10 Feet
Water and Sewer Services10 Feet
Manholes and Catch Basins10 Feet
Street Lights15 Feet
Intersections and Alleys40 Feet
Traffic Lights40 Feet
Railroad Crossings100 Feet
Bus Stops40 Feet

Minimum Distance From Existing Trees

Tree TypeDistance
Small Shade Trees15 to 30 Feet
Medium Shade Trees30 to 45 Feet
Large Shade Trees45 to 60 Feet

If the street terrace in front of your home has Commonwealth Edison transmission lines overhead, you are limited only to small trees, no matter what size or type of street terrace you have.