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West Lakeview Neighbors Want Every Option Explored To Keep Trees From Being Cut Down For City Water Pipe Replacement

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Dozens of trees are potentially slated to get the axe in West Lakeview, and residents have been mobilizing to stop it.

As CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov reported Wednesday evening, these residents do not want a repeat of the virtual clearcutting seen in other neighborhoods. They want every preservation option explored.

The trees are decades old and towering – one of them is about 10 times taller than Kozlov herself, who is a little over 5 feet. They may all be cut down by the city in the next couple of months for water pipe replacement.

So some who live in the area are being proactive – taking action and demanding the city be more transparent about its plans.

The trees mean a lot to many living on a two-block stretch of Paulina Street in West Lakeview – from Belmont Avenue to the six-way intersection with Lincoln Avenue and Roscoe Street.

"People in the neighborhood really care about the trees," said Caroline Teichner.

That is why when word started getting out that the city may be cutting down more than 20 of the trees on the two blocks, they reached out to us.

"It's just, you know, a devastating prospect," said Rosemary Feit.

According to Ald. Matt Martin (47th), the tree removal would be part of a water main replacement project slated to begin after the holidays. But there has been no official notice given to residents – which is a big concern.

"It kind of feels like it's happening under cover of darkness – which doesn't strike me as good public policy," Feit said.

So they are mobilizing – launching a Facebook page to get the word out, and to push the city to explore every option possible to simultaneously save the trees and replace the water main.

"Until we're convinced that the city has actually considered alternatives and has fully explored them," Teichner said. "This feels like a pretty drastic solution."

Three months ago, Andersonville residents tried in vain to save trees in that North Side neighborhood. Their removal is also due to water pipe replacement.

A Chicago Department of Water Management spokeswoman says saving trees is a priority, but they often don't know if one can be saved until they start digging. But the West Lakeview neighbors want more information about the plans well before the digging even starts.

"Give people concrete action steps that they can take to express their concerns," said Teichner.

Ald. Martin said he has asked the city's Water Department for a list of all viable options available to minimize the number of trees lost for the upcoming project. He is still waiting to get it.

As to when the project will begin, Water Department spokeswoman Megan Vidas said it is slated for after the holidays. The alderman is hoping to have a community meeting about it prior to the project's start – but even he is waiting for more specific information.


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