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Wicker Park, Bucktown, West Town

Want To Boost Your Block’s Tree Canopy? The City Is Planting Free Trees For Those Who Request Them In The 2nd Ward

Chicago's tree canopy has declined in recent years. "We are significantly below what a major city should be," Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) said.

The sidewalk across the street from Jose de Diego Community Academy.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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WICKER PARK — Does your block need more trees? Get a free one from the city.

Through the newly announced 2nd Ward Tree Project, residents from Old Town to Ukrainian Village can select from a range of low-maintenance and drought-tolerant trees to be planted in front of their homes in late spring or early fall.

“Throughout 2022, this new initiative plans to bring hundreds of new trees to our 2nd Ward communities,” according to a Google form distributed this week by Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd), whose office is administering the program.

Hopkins said his office launched the program because the city has lost tree canopy coverage in recent years to disease and infrastructure projects.

“We’re replacing all the aging water and sewer mains, People’s Gas is digging up neighborhoods, replacing the underground gas mains at the same time. We’ve had to remove a lot of trees that were just simply in the way,” Hopkins said.

Chicago’s canopy coverage decreased from 19 percent in 2010 to 16 percent in 2020, according to a tree census conducted by the Morton Arboretum.

“The national average of tree canopy coverage is 28 percent. So we are significantly below what a major city should be, especially a city whose motto is Urbs in Horto, ‘city in a garden.’ We’re not living up to our motto right now,” Hopkins said.

The Forestry Department has pledged to plant 15,000 trees annually over the next five years, which has been budgeted by the City Council, Hopkins said.

Trees will be planted in the public right-of-way parkway, between the curb and sidewalk.

The request process isn’t just limited to property owners. Any 2nd Ward resident can identify a parkway in need of a tree and make a request through Hopkins’ office.

Residents can indicate a preference for which kind of tree they want, but the final decision on species will be made by 2nd Ward office in conjunction with the Forestry Department after completing a preliminary assessment at each site.

Residents can express a preference for bur oak, shumard oak, North American hybrid elm, ginkgo and American linden trees.

Hopkins said more trees on city streets will help make life a little more bearable in Chicago, especially in the summer.

“A large tree canopy helps combat climate change, and it helps reduce the heat island that forms over the city in the summer months. And it also can help reduce energy usage in the summer,” he said. “If you have a tree casting shade on your building, that building may not need the air conditioner to work quite as hard.”

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