Parkways and Mature Trees.

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.) 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. 



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