CHICAGO — The city is supposed to plant thousands of trees this fall as part of an initiative from Mayor Lori Lightfoot — but some are concerned many of the trees are still unplanted as cold weather approaches.
Lightfoot’s Our Roots Chicago program put aside $46 million in city recovery funds so 75,000 trees could be planted over the next five years.
But Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th), a frequent Lightfoot critic who is challenging her in this spring’s election, said his workers saw trees being taken to a vacant lot at 46th Street and Damen Avenue starting in July.
“That lot became a giant orchard overnight,” Lopez said. “It’s a convenient storage spot. And there’s still thousands of trees there sitting in water, which is concerning as frost approaches. The goal was admirable; but, simply put, this was a poorly executed plan by the mayor.”
Mayor’s Office spokesperson Asha Binbek said the city has planted more than 10,000 trees this year, plans to meet or exceed the mayor’s annual goal of 15,000 and is “working diligently to successfully plant all remaining trees before the first frost.”
The first freeze last year was Nov. 2.
Chicago’s fall planting season starts Oct. 1 and continues as long as weather permits, according to the city’s website. Crews were seen planting trees over the weekend.
According to the the Morton Arboretum’s website, fall planting in the Chicago area runs from mid-August through mid-October, with planting in November and December posing “risk of poor root growth and increased failure rate.”
The city has contracted Seven-D Construction, 2000 W. 43rd St., for the job and is telling them planting locations on a rolling basis, Binbek said. Arborists with Streets and Sanitation must first complete inspections of planting sites, which “is an ongoing process,” Binbek said.
Seven-D Construction has been told 85 percent of locations to plant the remaining trees, Binbek said. The rest will be completed this year, Binbek said.
“We will plant trees as long as weather permits this year,” Binbek said. “Weather plays an important role in this process. The planting season was delayed because of the longer winter and summer temperatures and heavy rains halted plantings.”
Seven-D Construction receives payment for the trees from the city after they are planted, Binbek said. Public records show the city has paid Seven-D Construction $2.2 million this year in a contract for tree planting services, with the last payment listed Aug. 30.
An employee with Seven-D Construction said the company had no comment.
Lopez said the city has been “wasting taxpayer funds” by not picking places to put the trees earlier.
“We are in this predicament because of the lack of planning and foresight,” Lopez said. “Site control is key, and we often find ourselves touting projects before we have locations for them.”
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