• Erin Hegarty
    AUG 04, 2023

    More than triple the number of trees trimmed this year compared to 2022 under new grid-based system

    Members of the Urban Forestry Advisory Board met Thursday at City Hall. [Erin Hegarty/The Daily Line]

    Tree trimming crews in Chicago have been able to trim more than triple the number of Chicago trees this year compared to 2022 under the city’s new grid-based system. 

    Malcolm Whiteside, head of the forestry bureau under the city’s Department of Streets and Sanitation, announced the status of the tree trimming program during a meeting of the city’s Urban Forestry Advisory Board Thursday. 

    As of July 31, city trimming crews had trimmed 34,262 trees across the city compared to only 9,342 trees trimmed during the same span in 2022. 

    The new grid-based system for trimming trees replaced the city’s previous complaint-based system that relied solely on 311 requests for tree trimming submitted by residents. The previous complaint-based program, decried by alderpersons, created a system that took the city a full year to respond to tree trimming requests.  

    Related: Aldermen decry city’s year-long tree trimming backlog: ‘I can't say it enough — forestry, forestry, forestry’ 

    The city's Department of Streets and Sanitation in 2021 said it would more than double the number of tree trimming crews and shift to the grid-based system for tree maintenance after the complaint-based system was blamed for lengthy backlogs in addressing tree maintenance.  

    Related: Beefed up forestry crews will help shift city to long-sought ‘block-by-block’ tree trimming, hedge down backlog, officials say 

    Whiteside said the new system means the city’s crews can spend more time in a particular area trimming trees in a systematic way instead of driving from tree trim request to tree trim request across the city. 

    Chicago’s tree trimming program has seen “phenomenal growth” since shifting to the grid-based trimming system, Whiteside said. Though there is still a learning curve to the program as some individuals are still calling in to the city to submit tree trimming complaints.  

    Since the grid-base system means trees are getting trimmed more regularly, the number of so-called “tree emergencies” due to storms or other weather events has dropped, Whiteside said. 

    Many of the trees the forestry crews are encountering haven’t been trimmed in 10 years, Whiteside said. Crews generally aren’t conducting any “major limb removals” when they’re out working on the grid system but rather doing maintenance trimming. 

    Once a tree has been trimmed through the grid system, it shouldn’t need additional trimming for another four to five years, Whiteside said.  

    During the discussion on tree trimming, board member Daniella Pereira asked if the city crews were taking inventory of the types of trees they are trimming to create a citywide tree inventory. While the city doesn’t currently have the time to conduct the inventory, Whiteside said it is still “something that’s really important.” 

    Thursday marked the second-ever meeting of the Urban Forestry Advisory Board.  

    The City Council approved former Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s appointments to the Urban Forestry Advisory Board in January, about 18 months after alderpersons voted to create the advisory board. 


    The Urban Forestry Advisory Board is tasked with making policy recommendations related to the city’s tree-planting and maintenance efforts. The board is also empowered to write and maintain an “Urban Forestry Management Plan,” whose regularly updated “analysis and recommendations” will be reported annually to the mayor and City Council members. 

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