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Logan Square Woman Fights To Save 100-Year-Old Catalpa Tree Set To Be Cut Down For Water Pipe Replacement, And Other Trees Like It

CHICAGO (CBS) -- This story is about one tree, but a tree that represents a bigger problem.

A Logan Square resident is fighting to save a catalpa tree on her street, even though the city says workers need to replace water pipes, and thus the tree has to go. As CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov reported, things may now be on pause – at least for the time being.

The tree is about 100 years old. Emma Poelsterl is on a mission to save it, and her alderman is now helping the fight too.

"Some people have stopped and looked up for quite a while," Poelsterl said.

People gaze skyward at the catalpa's canopy because of a note that Poelsterl taped to its trunk about a week ago. The note informed neighbors and passersby that the tree was slated to be chopped down by Chicago's Bureau of Forestry.

Poelsterl put up the note after getting a notice from the city saying the tree was "hindering progress" and "must be removed" because of upcoming work on the water pipes below.

"I started to get passionate about not only this tree – which I love dearly and is very personal to me – but also thinking about all the mature trees of Chicago," she said.

Besides the note, Poelsterl said she reached out to Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st), and the Chicago Department of Water Management. She said La Spata came to see the tree, and is working to find another solution too.

"There's multiple reasons why we don't want to cut these trees down, besides just being emotionally attached to it," Poelsterl said.

Poelsterl, who has a degree in environmental sociology, points to studies that discuss how removing trees negatively impacts many things – from property values to the environment.

Balancing the need for pipe replacement and other work with tree preservation has been an ongoing issue in Chicago for years – most recently in Andersonville, where several trees recently did come down for that purpose despite efforts to save them.

"There are ways cities are doing it – other cities are using this. Chicago has just been slow to implement it," Poelsterl said. "I'm going to keep fighting for this, even if I lose this tree."

A Water Department representative said the Logan Square tree needs to be removed, because a plumber hired by the homeowner damaged a pipe, so it's an emergency removal – adding the city is exploring work options to save more trees in the future.

In the meantime, Ald. La Spata is planning to meet with the various departments that are involved soon, to see if there is an alternative.

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