DUNNING — Chicagoans desperate to get the trees outside their homes trimmed — before a storm wreaks havoc with their unwieldy branches — will no longer have to wait years before city crews respond to their request, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Thursday.
Three weeks ago, crews completed all of the outstanding tree trimming requests lodged by calling 311 or by filing an online form in 2015, reducing the city’s backlog by 80 percent, Emanuel said at a news conference staged in the 3900 block of North Paris Avenue in Dunning.
City officials were able to eliminate the years-long backlog by making operations in the Streets and Sanitation Department more efficient by changing the way garbage and recycling are picked up across the city and assigning employees to work weekends, officials said.
“For years, we had to steal from Peter to pay Paul,” Emanuel said.
By the end of the year, the backlog in tree trimming requests will have been eliminated, Emanuel said.
There are approximately 6,000 tree-trimming requests now awaiting action, officials said.
In 2014, there were 28,000 tree trimming requests dating to 2012, officials said.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel holds a vial of the insecticide that will be used by city crews to inoculate 30,000 Ash trees this year in an attempt to protect them from a pest. [DNAinfo/Heather Cherone]
Crews also have begun efforts to save ash trees throughout the city from the emerald ash bhorer by injecting them with an insecticide, Emanuel said.
The ash borer, which is smaller than a penny, has doomed thousands of trees across the city by eating them from the inside out, leaving them brittle and unsteady.
Since 2013, crews have treated more than 61,000 trees.
Another 30,000 Ash trees will be treated this year, with an additional 30,000 expected to be treated in 2017, officials said.
“This is a necessary investment in Chicago’s neighborhoods,” Emanuel said.
Plans call for the city’s Bureau of Forestry to plant 3,000 new trees this year, while the Chicago Department of Transportation will plant another 1,000 trees, officials said.
The roughly 85,000 ash trees lining Chicago’s streets and sidewalks make up about 17 percent of trees on city property, city officials said. Another 30,000 trees grow on Chicago Park District property, while 400,000 ash trees are on on private property.
City officials expect the bug will lay waste to between 25,000 and 30,000 parkway trees before the infestation ends.
New trees will be planted in areas that have been hit the hardest by the emerald ash borer, officials said. A “diverse set of tree species will be planted to help reduce the chances of Chicago being impacted by another invasive insect in the future,” officials said.
Residents of blocks where trees have been chopped down can fill out a online form to request that a new tree be planted.