By Pam Zekman

(CBS) — In a city that claims to treasure it’s green spaces and urban trees, 2 Investigator Pam Zekman found some trees dying of neglect, all the while costing taxpayers thousands of  dollars.

The tree trunks along West Armitage pop out of the sidewalk, gnarled and bulging. Cutting into them are the metal grates that are designed to protect them.  Begging the question: Does this harm the tree?

The grates are supposed to be removed before the trees mature to the point that the trunk reaches the metal opening.

“The general term for it is girdling,”  says certified arborist Mark Duntemann.

Dunteman, president of Natural Path Urban Forestry, inspected a number of trees along the West Armitage business corridor.

When the trunk of the tree is strangled or “girdled” by the metal grate, water can no longer travel from the roots to the rest of the tree.

“It cuts off circulation essentially for the tree, and the tree will eventually decline and more than likely die,” Duntemann says.

The expert pointed out a tree where the branches had no leaves. It was dying due to the girdling.

The city can’t say for sure many trees suffer from girdling, but the 2 Investigators have learned that in 2015 they had to replace or plant 579 trees along commercial corridors and 371 so far this year.

The 2 Investigators found at least 9 trees suffering from this girdling condition in one section of Lincoln Park.

The city says it costs taxpayers between $800 and $1,000 to remove a tree and plant a new one.

“Just looking at it, I think it’s very sad to see that a tree is going to die,” Lincoln Park resident Jeanine Peters says.

The city says they inspect every tree once a year, but Dunteman says more could be done.

For some of the trees along Armitage, the only solution might be removal and replanting.

It’s the Chicago Department of Transportation’s responsibility to maintain trees in business corridors. The department did not respond to requests for comment.


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