Minutes after I’d spoken with a city official Wednesday morning about the four-year backlog to replace parkway trees taken down by city crews — one of several such conversations over the past couple of months — I got a text with a photo from home.
The city had just planted a tree in my parkway. My next-door neighbor got one, too.
The trees — a Turkish filbert and a skylark honey locust — showed up weeks after several city officials had told my wife and our neighbor it would take at least three more years before the city could replace our parkway trees: my neighbor’s dying silver maple, which was taken down in December 2011, and our apparently healthy ash tree, chopped down to fix a leaking water line.
Why the long wait? City Hall had no money to replace parkway trees.
I’d filed a request March 17, under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act, asking the Department of Streets and Sanitation for a list of all the trees the city has either chopped down or planted since 2011.
The data arrived April 10, showing the city has chopped down thousands more trees than it has planted under Mayor Rahm Emanuel, particularly during the last six months.
Two weeks later, Emanuel marked Arbor Day by announcing the city would plant 5,400 trees by year’s end, a planting spree Chicagoans haven’t seen in years.
Then, on May 16, the mayor joined the Chicago Park District and Chicago Sculpture International in announcing the Chicago Tree Project to create sculptures from the thousands of trees felled by city crews.
And now the city says it has begun planting parkway trees, starting in neighborhoods that have been hit the hardest by the loss of trees, like mine on the Northwest Side.
“We plant trees by geographical location, so we send a crew sheet all the tree-planting for that geographical location,” Streets and Sanitation spokeswoman Molly Poppe told me. “So a crew would have been provided all the trees that should be planted in that area based on requests received in 2010, 2011 and up to fall 2012. And apparently your tree was included.
“It’s just a coincidence.”