To the Editor: 

According to the Herald’s story “No Decision..” (see front page), “David Hoffman, the Obama Foundation's attorney, said that 80% of the trees to be taken down (in Jackson Park to make room for the Obama Presidential Center) are either immature or in bad condition.” However, Bartlett Tree Experts, hired by the Obama Foundation to survey the trees in Jackson Park, found that only “3% were dead and 5% were in poor condition” (Bartlett Tree Experts, 2018). In fact, Bartlett “estimated the cumulative value of all 640 trees inventoried is $3,512,857.00. The value of the top 10 trees inventoried is $273,792.00.”

In addition, “environmental services of the (Jackson Park) trees were calculated with results indicating that the trees are estimated to store 203.8 tons of carbon, sequester 5.8 tons of carbon per year and remove 341.5 pounds of air pollution per year.“ 

That’s important for our South Side communities and our children. According to a Lurie Children’s Hospital study, “In Chicago, one in eight families have a child that has been diagnosed with asthma. In fact, the rate of asthma in Chicago children surpasses state and national levels.” However, a 2010 study found that “park trees can produce significant air quality effects at the local scale, both within and near parks, related to air temperatures, air pollution, ultraviolet radiation, and carbon dioxide.” That’s because “trees have a strong association of fewer emergency asthma cases in very polluted areas,” according to a 2017 University of Exeter study. 

Replacing the 800 trees in Jackson Park that the Obama Foundation is planning on cutting down with younger trees is not a solution. Lying about their size and condition is not a solution. Ignoring the value of Jackson Park’s trees and their pollution-mitigating capabilities is not a solution, either. Chicago’s South Side deserves the Obama Presidential Center (OPC) and to keep Jackson Park whole, viable, and tree-filled. Let’s find a better location for the OPC near Washington Park.

 J. Hoyt, MPH (CSU)

Teacher, City Colleges of Chicago

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