Residents of Rainey Avenue are up in arms over removal of trees on the Illinois Central-owned embankment visible from their backyards.
"Not In My BackYard, they don't" declared Robin Krank of 5720 S. Rainey Ave. Ms. Krank admitted that the work was not actually done in her backyard but that of her neighbor across the street, Doris White-Nimby.
Ms. Krank maintains that falling debris from the tree removal threatens the ramshackle frame houses on the block. "One small branch could easily knock over my house," she said, noting that strict adherence to Preservation Guidelines means that few on the block repair the exterior of their homes.
Other residents chimed in that the large trees removed by IC crews shielded their view of the tracks. "For the past forty years, I was unaware that trains used the embankment. Now passengers on the train can spy on me and report to the House Committee on Un-American Activities," a concerned resident was heard to say.
Block spokesman, Leon T. Lame, accused the IC of using "clear-cut" tactics. "We know the ways of these evil corporations. They would just as soon slash and burn-out our whole block. We will stand together on this."
Mr. Lame contends that many are afraid to identify themselves to the press for fear of IC reprisals. "IC conductors will toss pea gravel down on us if we dare to speak out."
Nervous Nimby, a block resident for more than 50 years, claims that the railroad hoodwinked homeowners. "They sent a letter stating that 'only minor trimming will be done'." When asked by a Herald reporter to produce the notice, Mr. Nimby pointed at an envelope on his fireplace mantel. Further investigation revealed that this envelope contained a past-due gas bill.
Others cited the tree removal as environmentally dangerous. "In these days of global warming, we should keep our green canopy of trees," screamed a resident, backing an Expedition out of her driveway.
Still others questioned the methods of IC crews. "Instead of using chainsaws, the IC should use a natural means of removing trees. A few beavers could be relocated from Jackson Park."
Longtime resident, Hans Christian Forester, lamented the tree removal. "These were great trees," he said, likening the trees to California coastal redwoods. "These fools are replacing our beautiful trees with an invasive species -- highway grass."
When informed that the trees removed were an invasive species known as the Tree of Heaven or Ailanthus, Mr. Forester barked at this reporter, "are you on the IC payroll now, you stooge?"
The Hyde Park-Kenwood Forestry Conference convened a fact-finding meeting on the IC tracks. Before the meeting was broken up by the 5:10 to Flossmoor, residents counted two pigeons, four crows, and two rabid squirrels made homeless by the needless clear-cut. The HP-KFC will consider proposals to raise funds to provide shelter for these displaced animals.
IC forester, Smokeless Da Bear, took exception to the complaints of residents. "These people are never satisfied. Let these cranks buy their own trees. I can't decide whether to use Agent Orange or napalm next year. "
When questioned about claims that highway grass is an invasive species, Mr. Bear stated "what are you talking about? This is grass that grows near highways. Apparently, Mr. Forester hasn't read much about invasive species, which are often found in highway corridors but are not called highway grass."