Let’s identify — and save — Chicago’s healthy, mature trees

A tree-lined avenue on West 33rd Street in Bridgeport.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

The recent Sun-Times editorial, “Chicago, don’t let healthy trees be cut down without good reason,” is the voice of multitudes of Chicagoans who are sick and tired of the aldermanic prerogative that allows 20 healthy, mature trees to be removed annually in public parkways of all 50 wards. That means this anti-environmental, costly policy allows 1,000 trees to be removed, with zero community input.  

In our hard-working urban forest, one mature heritage tree can remove up to 25,000 lbs. of carbon dioxide from the air. The tree canopy moderates urban heat surges and saves us thousands of dollars on utility bills. “Heritage trees” are defined by the City of Chicago as older, mature trees of historical and environmental value. Yet, they go unidentified, while New York City has identified 630,000.   

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In tree deserts in low-income, minority neighborhoods, alderpersons must advocate for aggressive tree-planting. In a recent advisory referendum, the outcry to save trees was on ballots in some communities, asking: “Shall the City of Chicago and the Chicago Park District stop cutting down trees in Jackson Park and preserve the trees in South Shore Cultural Center Park?”  The vote was a resounding 80% in favor.

Frustrated by rampant and nontransparent tree removal, our neighborhood block club, the Edgewater Glen Association published the first-of-its-kind Edgewater Heritage Tree Audit in 2022. This ignited other neighborhood block clubs to do their own tree identification surveys.

The EGA audit identified 157 healthy heritage trees between 50 and 153 years old; 56% were 100 years old. More than 400 mature trees have been identified by block clubs in the “Identify Our Trees Campaign.”  

The Edgewater Historical Society Museum, the repository for all tree audits, opened the Edgewater Heritage Tree Exhibit on Arbor Day, April 28. Our tree campaign has raised environmental consciousness, engaging students and seniors in identifying parkway heritage trees planted as long ago as in the 1870’s. 

After letting it languish for three years, the city finally appointed the Chicago Urban Forestry Board. Let us all join the growing efforts to make governmental urban tree management transparent and inclusive, ensuring it works for all Chicagoans.

John Dale, president, Edgewater Glen Association
Andrea Raila, EGA tree survey project director
Edgewater Glen

Arwady’s firing was a disgrace

How Mayor Brandon Johnson handled Dr. Allison Arwardy’s sudden termination was frankly disgraceful. All of Chicago is owed a valid explanation for it.

Johnson should have given a proper send-off for someone who led the city through one of the worst public health crises in 100 years and did her best to keep Chicagoans safe. Was Awardy perfect at her job? No, but no one on this earth is. She did her job with such grace, dedication, integrity and full transparency. Chicagoans will respect and admire her for that.

So, Dr. Arwardy, thank you for your leadership, and wish you the best!

The blatant disrespect Johnson displayed has shown me how he intends to govern — with no accountability, sidestepping the question about Arwady’s firing and quoting Tupac.

Mayor, you work for us, not the other way around. Failure to isolate public health from politics sets a dangerous precedent and endangers the health of Chicagoans. We do not have a doctor in the position until a successor is named, and the office is destabilized when COVID-19 is rising and we’re heading into what is predicted to be a triple-demic of viruses for the second year in a row.

Was it wise to leave the department captainless at this point? I think not.

Jennifer Chui, McKinley Park

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