Elgin resident fights Nicor plan to remove centuries-old oak trees

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Elgin resident Jack Petersen wants Nicor to find another way to inspect the gas lines beneath his property. (WLS)

Year round, trees help make home, home. They keep us cool in summer, shady and stretching to the skies.

And some, like these oak trees in Jack Petersen's backyard, seem to embody the wisdom that surely comes with a century of life. All of that was put at risk for Petersen last summer when Nicor Gas told him it needed access to his yard.

But Petersen is worried about more than just these four oak trees in his back yard. He's also thinking about the other trees in his backyard - spruces and a maple - combined making 14 that Nicor said it needed to dig up just to inspect the gas lines.

Nicor has the right to operate across 30 feet of Petersen's back yard, a spaced now outlined by orange markers. But Petersen wants Nicor to find another way to inspect the gas lines beneath his property.

Some of his neighbors in the aptly-named Century Oaks subdivision have come together, asking the utility to save their shade.

Nicor Gas has temporarily halted removal of oak trees until it can review the situation.

A statement from Nicor spokesman Duane Bourne said, in part: "Because of the importance of the oak trees to the neighborhood and our commitment to minimize the potential impact of our right of way maintenance activities, we have decided to work around some of the trees that are located a safe distance from our pipeline infrastructure. We want to assure residents that no trees will be removed until we complete our evaluation of the trees encroaching on the right of way, and communicate the results of the evaluation with property owners."

State Rep. Steven Andersson (65th District) told ABC 7 he will be meeting with Nicor representatives next week and believes they can save some, if not all, of the oaks.

For the moment, these trees aren't moving. Which is fitting with Arbor Day at week's end. But it's still unknown if the soon-to-bloom canopy will make it to next year's celebration.

Since we first reported this story, Nicor met with State Reps. Andersson and Anna Moeller and have reached an agreement to keep the Oak trees in place. Other trees is yards, like Petersen's, may still need to come down but will remain standing until Nicor conducts a new study.

Nicor's spokesman, Duane Bourne, emailed ABC 7 this statement:

"We are pleased that state representatives Anna Moeller and Steven Andersson reached out to Nicor Gas representatives (Tuesday) to discuss our right of way maintenance plans in Elgin. The meeting was amicable and productive and focused our mutual interest in working with Elgin residents to reach constructive agreements. We are committed to keeping local legislators and officials of the City of Elgin informed and knowledgeable as we work toward these solutions."
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