West Lakeview residents fight to save trees

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CHICAGO — The replacement of old underground water mains in West Lakeview is set to begin early next year. And while residents acknowledge the upgrades are needed, some worry it could come at a price.

In other neighborhoods, where the same pipe replacement work was done, the city needed to cut down fully grown trees, leaving once leafy blocks bare.

West Lakeview residents are concerned that could happen to their streets, too. There is a group actively campaigning to save trees on a roughly four-block stretch of North Paulina Street.

“At the end of the day, we understand the pipe has to be replaced,” resident Caroline Teichner said. “But we want to be part of that dialogue, because this will really impact the neighborhood.”

Teichner is part of a resident group that’s working to raise awareness online and by passing out fliers and posting signs on trees. The group estimates more than 20 mature trees could be in jeopardy.

Ald. Matt Martin (47th) says he understands residents’ concerns.

“Our area [takes] tree canopy incredibly seriously,” he said. “So, the prospect of losing one tree is one thing. The fact that we may lose dozens is hugely significant.”

Residents say there are options to preserve the trees and wouldn’t rule out taking legal action, if they believe the city hasn’t done all it can to save them.

“We want more than just a superficial exploration of these alternatives,” resident Rosemary Feit said. “We want there to be real blood, sweat and tears that goes into figuring out if these trees can be saved.”

A spokeswoman for the city Department of Water Management says the city takes the “decision to remove old growth trees very seriously. We are always looking for infrastructure maintenance and repair options to save trees. The decision to remove a tree is made on a case-by-case basis…”

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