'The trees are gone': Activists lose fight to save old oaks near Geneva
The fight to save 300-year-old burr oak trees near Geneva appears to be over after activists say the trees they tried to preserve have been clear-cut.
“I went through stages of grief every morning I heard those saws and heard these things being ground up,” said Brian Maher of Geneva Township. "The trees are gone. There's nothing left.”
Maher provided drone footage showing the area where the trees were removed.
Maher had rallied others to the cause in an effort to convince the property owner, Midwest Industrial Funds of Oak Brook, not to cut down the oaks.
Company officials did not respond to an email request for comment.
MIF has not yet filed a formal application for annexation to Geneva, just its initial development proposal.
The company owns 211 acres at Route 38 and Kautz Road. MIF wants to develop an industrial park on the site.
While Geneva has a tree preservation ordinance, Kane County does not.
MIF has a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers that limits it from cutting down trees wider than three inches at chest height until after Oct. 1 to protect an endangered bat species.
But Kathleen Chernich, assistant chief of the Army Corps regulatory department in Chicago, said she thought the clear-cut area was outside the permit boundary.
Maher and others rallied public support with a Change.org petition with more than 4,500 signatures and a website, savegenevaoaks.com.
It did not make a difference, even after Maher risked arrest by sitting on the cutting equipment.
Activists asked Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns to intervene, but he could not.
In an email response to all those who reached out to him, Burns wrote that the development does not yet have a complete annexation application. So city officials and the planning and zoning commission are prohibited from expressing opinions, he added.