By MEREDITH OGILVIE
Openlands and Project 120 collaborated on a project to celebrate what they are calling “Oaktober,” Saturday, Oct. 1. Despite the rain and persistent mosquitos, treekeepers and community volunteers gathered in Washington Park, 5531 S. King Dr., to plant 12 trees for Oak Tree Awareness month or “Oaktober.”
Oak trees are significant for a number of reasons not the least of which is the fact that it is the Illinois state tree. It is also a tree that factors heavily into the ecosystem as 500 living species rely on it for survival.
“It’s a complicated eco system,” said Michael Dugan, forestry coordinator with Openlands. “Native trees don’t support the same amount of animals and biodiversity that the oak does. Many insects, animals and tree cultures and societies are based on the growth of the oak.”
Openlands was founded in 1963 as a program of the Welfare Council of Metropolitan Chicago. It is one of the oldest metropolitan conservation organizations in the nation and the only group with a regional scope in the greater Chicago region.
According to Jerry Adelman, Openlands was one of the first conservation groups to be based in a metropolitan city.
“In the ‘60s conservation was seen as something for rural areas in the wilderness but not in big cities or ex-suburban fringe,” Adelman said. “We were real pioneers in that sense because we believed nature is vital to all people and it should be close to where people live.”
Adelman said, Openlands works in different scales in the city of Chicago with community partners for tree planting, community garden, and the greening of school campuses. Throughout the region we’ve been thinking comprehensively about connections for our trails and greenways that cut through many jurisdictions. As a not-for-profit we can convene people and get them to partner up and work collaboratively.
Saturday’s workday brought an undeterred group of about 20 people to plant trees and mulching the base of existing trees.
“I would have to say today’s overall goal was community building,” said Louise McCurry, Jackson Park advisory council president. “All these people came together to create a wonderful play space for children in Washington Park. Folks from Jackson Park advisory council, the midway council, Hyde Park Kenwood Community Conference and folks from Project 120 all came together to make a wonderful place for the community in Washington Park.”
For more information about “Oaktober” Oak Awareness Month visit chicagorti.org.