Elgin will hold off on removing 10 trees after residents' complaints

  • After complaints from homeowners, the city of Elgin agreed not to preemptively remove 10 trees, including some large silver maples, as part of the reconstruction of East Chicago Street unless they become damaged or diseased.

    After complaints from homeowners, the city of Elgin agreed not to preemptively remove 10 trees, including some large silver maples, as part of the reconstruction of East Chicago Street unless they become damaged or diseased. Rick West | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 6/29/2020 6:55 PM

The city of Elgin will not preemptively cut down 10 trees along Chicago Street after residents complained about such a plan.

The 10 trees, including some large silver maples, are on the public parkway. They had been slated for removal because of "a high likelihood of considerable damage or death" -- and therefore a risk to property and people -- during the ongoing rebuilding of East Chicago Street, city spokeswoman Molly Gillespie said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The city sent a letter with an apology to residents last week and offered to plant "a larger-than-typical replacement tree," Gillespie said.

After negative feedback from some residents, the city opted instead to allow the homeowners who live across from the trees to decide whether to keep them or replace them before construction proceeds further, Gillespie said.

"We will be doing as much as practical to not harm the trees that are requested to remain standing, but if during construction we encounter a tree and have concerns it is a threat to safety, we will take steps to remove it," she said.

Resident Gena McNamara, who installed a "Save Our Trees" banner on her front yard along East Chicago Street, said she was elated at the news Monday.

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"I am kind of holding my breath like, 'Really?'" she said. "I've been coming every day in fear they would be gone."

McNamara said she contacted Mayor David Kaptain and spoke with Public Works Director Mike Pubentz last week. Her daughter Isabell also contacted the city, writing, "I hope to open your eyes to the ineffable grief this would bring to our community."

The two-year, $7.6 million reconstruction of East Chicago Street started in May 2019 and runs from Center to Liberty streets, plus Geneva Street from Chicago to Fulton streets. It includes sewer separation, new pavement, signal and lighting upgrades, and new curbs and gutters.

After a public meeting in 2015, the city decided not to widen the road to maximize tree preservation, Gillespie said. Four trees were removed in May.

City arborists then advised that "as a prudent course of action," 10 more trees should be removed: nine on the 300 to 500 blocks of East Chicago Street, all on the north side of the street, and one on the 0-100 block of North Porter Street. That suggestion had nothing to do with easing the work of the contractor -- as some residents speculated -- Gillespie said.

The residents were being informed of the city's change of plan starting Monday, Gillespie said. It will be more costly for the city to remove the trees one at a time, if that becomes necessary, than removing them all at once, she added.

In ideal settings, silver maples can live more than 100 years, but in urban settings they have a life expectancy of 35 years, she said.

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