Campaign to Restore Blue Island Tree Canopy Shovel Ready
Grassroots effort assures planting of new trees in May
BLUE ISLAND, IL—March 29, 2018 (James Street Media Services)—A citizen-driven campaign to plant 70 trees in Blue Island public parkways this year has successfully secured funding and donations of trees—and has gained support from two leading nature conservation organizations.
The first young trees are scheduled for planting on Saturday, May 5 in partnership with Openlands, one of the oldest metropolitan conservation organizations in the nation. Community volunteers are needed for that date and a second planting day to be scheduled for fall.
In preparation for the local planting, The Morton Arboretum—which encourages the planting and conservation of trees—will host two presentations. A project overview will be presented Wednesday, April 11 at 6:30 p.m. at the Blue Island Library, 2433 York St. Also, a tree planting training will occur Saturday, April 21 at a location to be announced.
“Thanks to donations from Blue Island residents and the generous support of several not-for-profit organizations, we will be able to plant about 70 new trees across our city this spring and fall at no cost to the city,” said Val Kehoe, a Blue Island resident and arborist.
Blue Island is one of the oldest cities in Northern Illinois and has many majestic large trees lining its residential streets. Trees are also an important economic asset, reducing flooding, keeping buildings cool, and decreasing the damaging effects of sun on city streets. Plus, they protect and purify the atmosphere.
A GoFundMe campaign was started in November by Kehoe—along with city aldermen Bill Fahrenwald and Tom Hawley. In just three months, 70 donors gave more than $4,300. That was enough to pay for about half the 70-tree goal, but with spring planting around the corner, the organizers were hoping to move faster.
Three important non-profits stepped in to help. Openlands—through its TreePlanters grants program—will facilitate the planting day, with volunteers from the community and households receiving trees. On planting day, Openlands and its TreeKeeper volunteer leaders will train volunteers and provide the trees, tools, mulch, permits, and underground utility location identification. The Morton Arboretum will assist with community training and trees for the fall planting. And, the Blue Island Arts Alliance has adopted the financial campaign, which makes all donations tax deductible.
Kehoe, a horticulture coordinator for the University of Illinois Extension, says many white and green ash trees were planted to replace trees lost in the 1960s and 1970s to Dutch elm disease. Those ash trees have since succumbed to disease and The City of Blue Island has been unable to afford their replacement.
"In order to diversify Blue Island's tree canopy we are looking at a wide variety of species, including ironwood, hackberry, American linden, burr oak, swamp oak, catalpa and Kentucky coffee tree,” she said.
Next Step: Identify Appropriate Locations
Now, the push is on to find homes for the new trees. Kehoe and her team are accepting requests for trees to be planted in parkways at specific addresses.
Volunteers will be needed on May 5 during the first planting. And, donations are still being accepted for the overall tree canopy restoration campaign.
To get involved visit the GoFundMe page, or email email@example.com. Property owners who wish to request a new tree can also contact the alderman for their ward by phone or emails listed on the city website.
A video on Blue Island Television’s YouTube channel explores this community driven effort.
Founded in 1963, Openlands is one of the nation’s oldest and most successful metropolitan conservation organizations, having helped secure, protect, and provide public access to more than 55,000 acres of land for parks, forest preserves, wildlife refuges, land and water greenway corridors, and urban gardens. For more information, please visit www.openlands.org.