Village looks to untangle ribbon row

Ribbon-tying on village trees has become a customary tribute in the wake of a resident’s passing whose loss is widely felt.

But some in the community say the colorful homage deteriorates into an eyesore and a nuisance when left to languish for months.

At Tuesday’s Hinsdale Village Board meeting, trustees agreed to institute a policy encouraging people to remove the ribbons after two weeks, after which village crews would take them down. Village President Tom Cauley raised the issue during his president’s comments, saying he had received hundreds of emails from residents urging officials to more strictly regulate the practice.

“Often times these ribbons are put up and they’re not taken down,” Cauley said. “They become discolored. They fall off the trees. Sometimes there’s three or four ribbons on the same tree.”

Rather than enacting a potentially punitive ordinance, Cauley proposed establishing a policy enlisting residents’ cooperation in limiting the time ribbons stay up.

“I think it would be problematic for the village to be giving tickets or citations to people who put up ribbons to commemorate the passing of somebody,” he said. “I don’t have a problem with people putting them up. They just have to take them down in some time frame that appears reasonable.”

The initial suggestion of 30 days was deemed too long by Trustee Jerry Hughes, especially if trying to remobilize the same group of volunteers.

“To try to reactivate that after 30 days, that just seems like it’s unlikely to happen,” said Hughes in supporting a two-week limit.

Cauley said there are cases in which the ribbons are intended to stay up in conjunction with a special date or event, and he said those could be communicated to the village and given special allowance.

“I think we should just impress upon people that if you’re going to put them up, you’ve got to take them down,” he said.

Trustee Neale Byrnes said he doesn’t envision the public works department being overly burdened by ribbon removal if necessary. But Cauley stressed that the onus should be on residents to take them down.

Hughes noted that, because the ribbons are on parkway trees, they can be removed by the village at any time.

Trustee Matt Posthuma cautioned against the village acting too heavy-handed when dealing with those grieving.

“I guess I would really hesitate to have people from the village calling up someone who’s lost a loved one and telling them to take a ribbon down,” he said.

Cauley said letting people know of the policy should obviate the need for the village to contact anyone about ribbon removal. He expressed hope that awareness and compliance on the part of residents will also spare the village from having to pursue more rigid measures.

“If it seems to be working, we can maybe dissuade people from coming to us and proposing a ordinance, if we can (take) this softer approach,” he said.

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean