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Lakeview Christmas Trees to Come Down, Residents Still Torn On Their Impact

By Mina Bloom | January 7, 2015 8:31am
  The trees have been called everything from a "waste of money" to a "winter wonderland."
Lakeview Christmas Trees
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LAKEVIEW — The controversial undecorated Christmas trees lining the streets of Lakeview will come down in a week. But some residents are still wondering why they ever went up in the first place.

"I think it was half-a**ed," Lakeview resident Michael Nicolson said, referring to the hundreds of undecorated trees tied two-to-a-pole. "The execution was not very good. It definitely does not make the neighborhood feel like it's a holiday. They don't have a real effect because Christmas trees at least have lights on them."

For the second year in a row, Patch Landscaping tied the 6-foot-tall trees to poles around the neighborhood. The trees have no trimmings save for a bow.

Nicolson is among some residents who say they're largely unimpressed by the trees, and believe the Central Lakeview Merchants Association could have put up more festive, sustainable decorations instead.

The 50-year-old designer said he would've preferred if the Merchants Association strung reusable Christmas lights around the neighborhoods instead. 

"If it had snowed before Christmas, they would have been covered with dirty snow," he said, adding that the trees were "knocked around" and often "tilted."

Of the 600 Christmas trees put up around Lakeview and Wrigleyville, 138 were donated to needy families this year, according to Gus Isacson, executive director for the Merchants Association.

That's more than double the amount donated last year, when 51 trees were given away.

Despite this, the trees as decorations have received mixed reactions. Last year, one resident called the trees a "winter wonderland," and another called them a "sad, hulking" target for urinating dogs. 

Earlier this December, aldermanic candidate Mark Thomas launched the "Naked Tree Contest" to help inspire Lakeview residents and business owners to decorate them.

Budgetary constraints were part of the reason the trees weren't decorated, Isacson saidDecorations like garland and red ribbon cost as much as the tree itself, he said, adding that the neighborhood group also wants to be respectful of all religions.

To 22-year-old resident Jennifer King, "there's nothing festive" about the trees, which she called "ridiculous."

But the cost of the trees bothers her the most.

"I'm almost certain those were paid with taxpayer dollars" through a special property tax in the area, King told DNAinfo Chicago in early December. "If this how my tax dollars are being spent, I'm not happy."

When asked whether the trees, valued at $45 each, were paid for using tax money, Isacson declined comment.


Last year, Isacson said: "People are getting a free tree. What do they care where the money comes from?"

Lakeview resident Dimphy Sasse, 29, has lived on Clark Street in Lakeview for the past three years so she's no stranger to the Christmas tree program. In fact, two trees are tied to a pole right outside her apartment door, she said.

"It seems like a waste of trees," Sasse said. "I'd rather them spend the money on something that's more reusable."

While she hasn't witnessed many people throwing trash into the trees, she said the pine needles "get everywhere."

Still, she said, "there are worse things you can put in the street," an opinion shared by Wrigleyville resident Spencer Meeks.

The 22-year-old resident wasn't ready to see the Christmas trees go Tuesday evening.

"Now that they're catching snow, they're pretty," Meeks said. "I think people are looking for some [reason] to be negative."

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