All You Need To Know About Parkway Fencing

I’m binge watching the second season of CHEER on Netflix, so I’ve written a pump-you-up call and response.

Why do we fence?

We fence to protect!

What are we protecting?

Our investment!

This even made me laugh out loud because it’s sooo bad . . . I do not have a career in writing cheers! (I can lit-tra-ly hear Craig’s eyes hit the ceiling cuz he wishes he could have deleted this!)

My point is that using your parkway as an extension of your landscaping is a GREAT idea, but it also means that you’re going to need to protect your investment from car doors, people, dogs, and weather. And the best way to do this is utilize the fence (or a version of one). Hip-hip-hooray!

So, here’s all you need to know about fencing on a parkway.


Fencing around a parkway is typically 24 inches. Any shorter, it could be a trip hazard and any taller it starts to look out of place and disproportionate (a.k.a., weird).


The longest lasting and strongest is wrought iron. (Stainless steel works too.)

There are two options for finishing wrought iron. But I’m going to pause here for a quick PSA. It is a GUARANTEE that ALL METAL WILL RUST when it is outdoors. There’s nothing you can do to stop it; you can help mitigate it with your finish choice, but it won’t be stopped. Plug your ears and run if you’re ever promised differently.

Back to the finishing options. 

1. Use a high-quality metal primer and paint. 

2. Opt for a powder-coated finish. This will deter rusting longer than primer and paint, but the fence will have to be prefabricated and bolted together on-site. 


Should priming and painting be the choice, the fence will require regular upkeep with continued priming and painting over its lifetime to keep it looking sharp. 

If powder-coating is the choice, then the whole fence will need to be disassembled and brought to a shop for a new coating. (Yes, this is a bigger deal than just painting.)

Set Backs.

Chicago city code requires there be 24 inches from the street side of the curb to the fence in the parkway with 18 inches from the inside of the curb to the fence. The setback allows vehicles space to open their doors.

There are no codes for how to landscape the 18 inches, but we highly suggest having paving installed. So, when folks are exiting their vehicle, they can step on something solid versus sinking into mud. A nice neighborly choice too!


The design style is all about context and preference. Click here to see our portfolio of options and ideas. 

I mean I could repeat the cheer to wrap this up, but I should most definitely leave that to the pros. Just like you can leave your parkway fencing and design to the pros. If you’d love to get started on a plan for yours, contact us today! Fencing is a fantastic option for protecting your landscaping investment in your parkway.

Go Fencing! Go!

 – Sara J-S

P.S. You, your neighbors, and the city-at-large benefit greatly from well-designed and cared for parkways. But please remember that the city owns the parkways, which means they do have the authority to access the property and utilities there without consent and are not liable for reimbursing you on any landscaping they disrupt. 

What You Need To Know About Trees in Parkways

With my head on my desk, I said to the guy on the phone, “You’ve got to be kidding me. If this was such a thing, why wasn’t I told about it at ANY POINT in the process of buying my home or my commercial property?”

In order for Topiarius to secure our business license at our building, we needed to apply and pay for a $10 life of ownership driveway permit so that anyone visiting 5030 W. Lake could turn off the road, legally drive over the city sidewalk, and into our loading dock. The city owns the sidewalk so if you have to drive over it you need to have permission. (Fingers-crossed – we’ve not been found out about our own garage access!)

Hold off on Googling this (cuz it’s freaking cuckoo) and stick with me for a moment because not everything the city does is illogical, especially when it comes to trees in your parkway.

As you know the city owns your parkway (the local term for the area between the sidewalk and street. If you missed last week’s blog post, here it is.) The city also owns all the trees in parkways (no matter who plants them). Seriously.

But this definitely comes with some perks.

The Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation, Bureau of Forestry are responsible for maintaining more than 500,000 parkway trees. This means that if your tree(s) need pruning, removal, or debris clean up, you can submit a request and, while it may take time, you will get these services completed for free. (OK yes, we pay taxes et all, but you get my point.)

The other thing to know is that these departments also plant trees for free. There is a master list that’s downloadable on their website and you can POTENTIALLY pick the tree you’d like for either their spring or fall planting schedule. Most likely you will only get to choose between 4-5 options based on what other trees are planted in your neighborhood. The city’s goal is to diversify the plantings. (This is a good thing).

If you’re not interested in waiting for the city, here’s what you MUST know.

Technically you’re supposed to get a permit to do any work in/on parkways, but functionally the city is fine with homeowners making improvements.

However, existing trees cannot be removed! THIS IS HUGE! The fine is $1,000 per caliper inch. This means if you remove a 20” diameter tree you will be fined $20,000!

BUT you can plant a tree. You just have to hire a company that is licensed by the city of Chicago to plant parkway trees, and again you will be limited to 4-5 options. These companies can also care for and prune your parkway trees.

The upside to using a licensed company means they’re educated, qualified, know how to get permits, and they especially have the insurance coverage needed for you and your home, as well as themselves. 

At Topiarius we don’t want you to be frustrated with your head on your desk because you didn’t know all the codes so your projects are delayed or derailed. We’ve got the knowledge that will guide you to the outcome that you’re looking for.

If you’re interested in working with such a knowledgeable company to create your outdoor sanctuary and oasis, then contact us today. No time like the present.

Knowledge is power! 

Sara J-S

P.S. If you want to know more about city codes, check out our post: Top 4 City Landscape Codes. 

It’s Crazy That There Are So Many Names

Here in Chicago We Call it the Parkway

Welcome to 2022!

I’m heading into this year with one thing on my mind.

You may think the obvious answer would be to find continued success, advancement, and world peace.

But nope.

Let’s Jeopardy style this topic . . .

What is . . . ?

  • A public property that needs to be maintained by the property owner.
  • A space that provides distance between the sidewalk and road.
  • A space that is used for bus shelters and utilities.

Can you guess what it is?

Thanks to Wikipedia, and depending on where you live, the answer is . . .

  • Berm
  • Besidewalk
  • Boulevard strip
  • Curb lawn
  • Curb strip
  • Devil strip
  • Extension lawn
  • Grass bay
  • Grassplot
  • Hellstrip (love this one!)
  • Island strip
  • Median
  • Mow strip
  • Nature strip
  • Neutral ground
  • Park strip
  • Parkrow
  • Parkway
  • Planting strip
  • Sidewalk law
  • Sidewalk plot
  • Sidewalk strip
  • Swale
  • Tree belt

It’s crazy how many names there are for this, but here in Chicago we call it THE PARKWAY. 

The parkway (no matter the name) can be a significant conundrum when it is part of your property – at least in Chicago. I mean, it’s not your property but you’re required to maintain it. So, what’s allowed? Should it have its own design or look like your neighbors? Is it worth it to add a fence? How much should you invest in it? Can there be irrigation and electricity? What happens if the city needs to access utilities that are buried there? You want to plant a new tree or take one down? Well . . . step on the breaks because the city has rules around this. How do you design a parkway that mitigates dog walker ignorance when they will inevitably let their dog pee on your investment?

More questions than you realized, right?

Over the next few weeks, I will provide clarity by taking you one step at a time through the world of parkways.

Cheers to 2022!
Sara J-S

P.S. So excited to share with you that Topiarius now has a “Resources” section on our website. You now have complete access to our blog, our seasonal guides, and our case studies. Check it out!