Nicor tells Elgin residents their oak trees are safe, for now
A group of Elgin residents who've been fighting to save their century-old oak trees are relieved to learn of Nicor Gas' decision to preserve them, at least for now.
Neighbors Jack Petersen and Laurie Beaver are among about 25 property owners in the Century Oaks West subdivision concerned Nicor will cut down some of their trees as part of an easement maintenance project. Dozens of trees are at risk, including eight oaks, some of which are estimated to be more than 200 years old.
The residents Friday were notified by Nicor that the company decided "at this time" not to remove their oak trees as part of its current project to ensure safe access to pipelines.
"I feel partially relieved," Petersen said. "The oak tree decision is definitely a great one for us, and for the trees, and for the neighborhood. But I am still concerned about what they are going to decide in regard to the other trees."
The residents were given a Friday deadline to relocate sheds and playhouses on their yards, which Beaver says she's done.
"I think I am safe for now," Beaver said about her oak trees, "but I am worried about my neighbors." Petersen, for example, stands to lose nine Norway spruce trees and a maple tree as part of the Nicor project.
Nicor's letter says its evaluation of safety risks posed by the trees might take several months.
"During this assessment, we want to assure residents that the oak trees in the community will not be disturbed," said Duane Bourne, corporate spokesman for Nicor.
Beaver and Petersen want Nicor to tell them, unequivocally, their oak trees will never be cut down.
"I think we made a very solid claim that they cannot cut those trees down unless they prove there is a safety or maintenance issue with those trees," Petersen said, adding he spent a lot of time researching easement documents and federal regulations.
Still, this is a victory, said the residents, whose predicament attracted media attention after they contacted the Daily Herald earlier this month.
Beaver and Petersen said they hope to get definitive answers from their state representative, Steve Andersson, who told them he's meeting with Nicor Tuesday to discuss the fate of the trees.
"(Andersson) read the Daily Herald article, and basically dropped in one day saying that he was interested in this issue and offered to help by doing whatever he can," Petersen said.
Andersson could not be reached for comment.