Elgin residents fight back as Nicor Gas wants to cut down century-old trees

FOX 32 NEWS - They’ve been standing tall for over a century. But now, Nicor Gas wants to chop down a number of massive oak trees in northwest suburban Elgin to protect an underground pipeline.

"The furthest right Oak tree is estimated to be perhaps 230 years old,” Jack Petersen said.

Petersen showed FOX 32 the clump of massive Burr Oaks in his backyard, as well as Maple and Spruce trees that Nicor Gas wants to cut to the ground.

"No way. They don't have the right to make me cut them down and they don't have the right to cut them down,” Petersen said.

Petersen is one of 25 Elgin homeowners whose backyards include a 60 foot wide easement for an underground Nicor pipeline that was built in the late 1950s.

Last summer, Nicor sent out letters saying that because of new, more stringent federal rules, all trees and sheds need to be removed from the easement so that the utility can have better access to inspect and repair the pipeline.

Nicor wants to cut down scores of mature trees, including eight Burr Oaks all over 100 years old.

"It's as if they're children. Although they're hundreds of years old. They don't have a voice. So we have to be their voice. We have to protect them,” said Tammi Zemp.

Zemp and Laurie Beaver have helped organize the ‘Save the Trees’ movement, including a sign warning Nicor to keep its chainsaws away.

"Come on Nicor, you're bullying us,” Beaver said. “These trees were here before the pipeline."

Ironically, the name of this neighborhood is Century Oaks West. And the eight Oak trees that Nicor wants to cut down are the last eight standing in the subdivision.

In a statement, a Nicor spokesman writes: "Safety is the foremost concern for both the public and the crews that work around natural gas pipelines and related facilities. (We) will not begin our work until we complete an evaluation of the trees encroaching the right of way next week."

Neighbors say they understand the safety concerns, but can't understand why Nicor wants to remove trees that were already old when the pipeline was first installed.

"They knew the trees were there. They didn't take them down then and they're not going to take them down now,” Petersen said.

The neighbors say they've been told by an arborist that if the Burr Oak trees survive, they could live another 200 years.

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