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2015 CRTI Urban Forestry Awards

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The 2015 CRTI Urban Forestry Awards were given out at a ceremony during our Partner Recognition Celebration on July 14th. 

The 2015 CRTI Urban Forestry Award winners are:

Best Natural Area/Woodland Conservation
The Land Conservancy of McHenry County
Karl Persons, Hazel Crest

Best Use of Volunteers
Forest Preserves of Cook County – Volunteer Resources Department
Habitat 2030

Outstanding Community Advocate
Pierce Downer Heritage Alliance
Helen Denham and the Riverdale Tree Commission

Most Growth by a Community
Village of Mundelein
City of Joliet

Most Innovative Urban Forestry Program
Village of Oak Park
Natural Resources Commission of the Village of Glenview

Most Sustainable Tree Program
Glacier Oaks and McHenry County Nursery
The Conservation Foundation

Neighborhood Tree Champion
Lincoln Hill Homeowner’s Association
Village Commons of Adare Farms

Partnerships for Success
Village of Riverwoods, the Riverwoods Preservation Council, and Riverwoods Residents Association Plant Committee
Historic Oak Propagation Project

 

View pictures and descriptions of the winning projects, programs, and communities below.

Best Natural Area/Woodland Conservation
The Land Conservancy of McHenry County

Since 2006, the Land Conservancy of McHenry County has been developing an oak conservation program called “Project Quercus” with the goal of ensuring that oak woodlands will be part of the local landscape 200 (or more) years from now.  Working with the McHenry County Conservation District, The Land Conservancy has preserved over 100 acres of remnant oaks through an effort called the Oak Legacy Project. At the time the Land Conservancy began the program, there was a growing awareness that the remaining oak woods in the county were at risk of dying out due to an aging oak population, development and environmental stresses, limited regeneration and expansion of invasive species. Several  thousand oaks have been planted through Project Quercus on public and permanently protected private property using 4-H clubs, service organizations, schools, scouts and others. Thousands or acorns are collected each year by local residents for planting at home or other locations in McHenry County. The Land Conservancy produced and published a brochure on oaks for homeowners to help them become better stewards of their trees.  The brochure has been distributed by Oak Keepers and also made available to residents through municipalities.  The Land Conservancy has also created an oak restoration guide for landowners.  Restoration workshops, field trips and other trainings teach landowners how to effectively support their oaks.

Karl Persons, Hazel Crest

Hazel Crest has proven its commitment to an effective, growing community forestry program, but what really stands out in this community is forester Karl Persons’ efforts in the community’s Open Lands. Karl’s passion is the Hazel Crest Open Lands - a 53 acre site that is home to a diversity of trees, including elms, conifers, crabapples, horse chestnuts, ginkgos, oaks, maples and walnuts, among others. Karl leads work crews two Saturdays every month to beautify and enhance the Open Lands. From March through November, Karl works with crews from the Sheriff’s Work Alternative Program, who help clear weeds, cut down diseased and dead trees, and plant new trees and flowers while at the same time building confidence and skills in adults. In addition to caring the community’s trees, Karl teaches the community about the urban forest and the services these trees provide so that this generation and the next generation understand and support the urban forest. He also hosts Full Moon events, Johnny Appleseed’s birthday party and many other activities to engage the residents of Hazel Crest in the Open Lands and the urban forest.

Best Use of Volunteers

Forest Preserves of Cook County – Volunteer Resources Department

The Forest Preserves of Cook County is embarking on the second century of protecting and preserving nature for the pleasure and recreation of the public.  The Next Century Conservation Plan outlines bold actions to make Cook County a national leader in urban conservation.  Included in the Plan is the restoration of 30,000 acres of natural areas. There are many volunteer and stewardship groups working in the Forest Preserves to preserve and protect natural resources for the next generation. These include volunteers with the North Branch Restoration Project - working to preserve the North Branch of the Chicago River to ecological health; volunteers of the Palos Restoration Project - working to restore 15,000 acres and many others.
Volunteers are trained to safely operate equipment including training as Midwest Ecological Prescription Burn Crew Members. Utilizing volunteers allows the Forest Preserves to leverage its resources and expand its potential. Volunteers are also important to the Forest Preserves outreach efforts.  They assist with educational programs and events connecting people to nature. The Forest Preserves of Cook County’s volunteer program forms the framework and foundation for the next 100 years. 

 

Habitat 2030

They engage with local natural areas and experienced stewards to learn how to best steward our ecosystems.  During the winter they focus on brush removal, clearing at home sites, and other locations. Informal gatherings foster learning by talking about topics of interest such as  “Hops n Herps” and “Beer and Botany” – a blend of social outing and shared learning. During the fall they collect seed. In the spring they remove invasive species all the while intermixing social activities with hands on learning. Bioblitzes and happy hour hangouts bring the group together to encourage an exchange of ideas resulting in members engaged in sustained stewardship work. Urban meets nature in this successful volunteer organization.

Outstanding Community Advocate
 

Pierce Downer Heritage Alliance

The Pierce Downer Heritage Alliance provides educational opportunities for citizens. They have hosted talks on Project Quercus, Wilderness and Wildflower Walks and other programs. They participate in the annual Arbor Day celebration and have donated trees to be planted in community parks. The Pierce Downer Heritage helped to notify the public about efforts to eradicate Japanese knotweed, and other invasive species on public and private land. They have adopted a stretch of Highland Avenue where they conduct clean up. The Pierce Downer Heritage Alliance has also provided extensive testimony to the Downers Grove Village Council trying to preserve existing trees on private property from being removed due to development, and to coordinate restoration efforts in the buffer area between Good Samaritan Hospital and Lyman Woods. The Alliance continues to promote and preserve the urban forest in Downers Grove. 

Helen Denham and the Riverdale Tree Commission

Helen Denham and the Riverdale Tree Commission are a force to be reckoned with.  The Commission is comprised of volunteer residents and an arborist who participate in community-wide efforts to publicize the value and benefits of trees. For more than a decade the National Arbor Day Foundation has recognized the Village of Riverdale as a Tree City honoring the commitment of the village to provide a comprehensive community forestry program. The Commission and especially Helen have recognized the importance of involving youth in urban forest stewardship through the “Tree Buddies.” Mentorship and the youth volunteer programs get children outside, teaching them the importance of trees in an increasingly urbanized setting and provides them a positive environment in which to work and learn. A local butternut is believed to be the largest of its species in the state of Illinois.  The Commission collects seed from this tree. Arbor Day is a special day in Riverdale.  Helen and the Commission are a testament to the ability of volunteers to engage and educate the public on the value of the urban forest.

Most Growth by a Community
 

Village of Mundelein

Adam has learned on the job. He has hand selected more than 1,000 parkway trees at the nursery and made sure that there is broad species diversity so that problems like EAB don’t impact Mundelein in the future. Staff have learned to trim and prune trees correctly. The Village has procured grants from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to help extend limited resources in the village for the purchase and planting of trees. Mundelein is a model of how to address big problems with few resources in thoughtful ways by supporting and empowering staff. 

City of Joliet

The City of Joliet has struggled to come to terms with limited resources and expanding needs. Like other communities in our region, Joliet has experienced the impacts of EAB.  They have seen limited stock and higher prices for trees.However, Joliet’s best resource is their outstanding forester - Jim Teiber. Jim has worked long hours and expended significant effort to create a diverse forest in Joliet.  He has tracked the age and condition of the trees so that is knows what trees need to be removed and opportunities for species expansion to keep a diverse forest.  Jim was successful in getting his municipal board to approve a multi year contract for contract growing. Through contract growing, Joliet can get the trees they need, and the prices they want, when they need them. The urban forest in the downtown and throughout the neighborhoods are being thoughtfully managed to support the urban forest for generations to come. Engagement and education of youth in urban forestry inspires the next generation and also their parents.  Jim and the City of Joliet have extended their resources through thoughtful planning for the future.

 

Most Innovative Urban Forestry Program
Village of Oak Park

Oak Park is the first community in Illinois to qualify as an Arboretum! Oak Park is a thriving community of about 52,000 people located immediately west of Chicago and known for its architectural heritage and diverse population. Within its 4.5 square miles live one of the region's most diverse mixes of cultures, races, ethnicities, professions, lifestyles, religions, ages and incomes. With over 103 linear miles of street and 84 acres of parkland. The Village and its Park District have over 20,000 tree representing over 130 different species and varieties within their jurisdiction. Oak Park is proud of its trees and the professional care they receive and it shows! 

Natural Resources Commission of the Village of Glenview (Beautiful photos below taken by NR Commission member, Ron Ganim)

The Glenview Natural Resources Commission is comprised of five voting members and a student member. This commission was formed in 2003.  The Commission was created to identify and advocate for opportunities to improve natural resources throughout the Village.  The village is the site of a successful redevelopment of the Glenview Naval Air Station, including preservation of a 32 acres remnant tall grass prairie and establishment of a 140 acre community park – emphasizing native landscaping. They have developed a natural resources master plan, updated the Village’s Tree Preservation ordinance, applied for a grant to create an urban forest management plan, evaluated nine trees for induction into the Village’s Heritage Tree recognition program, overseen installation of interpretive signs designed by high school students, led bicycle tours highlighting installations of green infrastructure, judged an elementary school science fair, staffed two Earth Day celebrations, the annual summer festival and the fourth of July booths, conducted an Arbor Day ceremony and tree walk, hosted two river clean up workdays, supervised an Eagle Scout project to plant native vegetation in a new detention basin, sponsored a Farmer’s Market Green Tale with weekly outreach topics, participate in Invasive Species Awareness Month through speaking events and volunteer workdays, coordinate with public and private IDOT landowners to control invasive species, reviewed plans for a reviewed walk/streambank stabilization project and participated in the comprehensive Plan update – all within the last year! Members of the Commission are dedicated and knowledgeable about native resource management and urban green infrastructure. Major projects arising from the plans developed by the Commission include streambank stabilization and re-meander of the  West Fork of the Chicago River.

The Commission works to engage citizens of all ages in natural resource protection.  They make sure that natural resource issues are considered among the many competing priorities that the Village Board faces.  They have provided guidance to the Board in setting policy in response to the Emerald Ash Borer epidemic and is the appeals body for the Village Tree Preservation Ordinance. Members of the commission are effective, dedicated and committed to the community.

Most Sustainable Tree Program
Glacier Oaks and McHenry County Nursery

Mary McClelland and Joe Beeson are owners of Glacier Oaks Nursery and McHenry County Nursery in Harvard Illinois.  They have a deep personal commitment to conservation of oak woodlands and to providing quality trees to communities and organizations across northern Illinois. They helped to start the “Shrub Club” to increase the availability of affordable native shrubs for oak woodland restoration.  This entailed the donation of their time, greenhouse space and materials. They grow a wide variety of trees to support species diversity. They propagate many native tree and shrub species from seed and cuttings collected locally, helping ensure local genotypes are preserved and planted throughout the region.  They grow and donate hundreds of oak seedlings each year to support conservation projects. Mary and Joe serve on the Steering Committee for Project Quercus. They are generous with their time and resources.  Their nursery business plan isn’t just to grow and sell more trees and bushes but to support conservation and tree planting in the Chicago region.


The Conservation Foundation

The Conservation Foundation is a non-profit land and river protection organization that promotes stewardship in DuPage, Kane, Kendall and Will Counties, Illinois. The support of more than 3,500 members and 500 volunteers help to carry out their mission to preserve and restore open space and natural lands, protect rivers and watersheds, and promote stewardship of our environment in DuPage, Kane, Kendall and Will Counties, Illinois. Whether you are starting from a grass lawn or have existing natural areas on your property, the Conservation@Home program can help you make your yard more sustainable. The Conservation Foundation works to make our region more attractive to wildlife and retain precious rainwater by planting native vegetation, creating butterfly and rain gardens, using rain barrels and removing exotic species of plants. The Conservation Foundation works with landowners across the region through the Conservation@Home and Conservation@Work programs to teach landowners how to sustainably manage their properties to reduce the amount of pesticides and fertilizers and to increase tree and shrub canopy. The Conservation Foundation teaches that native wildlife needs the berries and bugs that thrive on native plants. The native plants of our region have evolved in this area for more than 10,000 years.  The bugs and berries that grow on native plants are the day to day food source that sustains our bird population. In the fall of each year, The Conservation Foundation distributes oak trees. The Conservation Foundation encourages sustainability including our urban forest.

 

Neighborhood Tree Champion
Lincoln Hill Homeowner’s Association

The Lincoln Hill Homeowner’s Association had the desire to replant parkway trees after the removal of ash trees.  The Township did not have the resources to replace these trees so the Homeowner’s Association took matters into their own hands. They formalized a tree committee to support the planting project.  They  met monthly to discuss tree selection and negotiated with the Township to be able to replant the trees. They engaged residents to help with the nursery selection and selection of a contractor to carryout the work. They developed a planting plan. Residents paid the costs associated with purchasing and planting trees where the ash trees were lost.  They even set up a fund to assist others who could not afford to purchase and plant trees in front of their homes. They purchased 62 trees to be planted along their street.  They are true tree champions!
   A Morton Arboretum graduate of the Openlands TreeKeepers program  worked with the residents to help them select the correct species, educated them about tree maintenance, mulching and watering, and organized volunteer events to assist residents with spring mulch.  Al Zelaya of Davey Tree Experts developed an Energy Benefits report for the residents and Township to highlight the economic impact of the lost ash trees and the future benefits of the new trees. A linden tree was planted, with Mrs. Lang, for her 100th birthday! The trees are being mapped and reported to the forest composition effort of the Chicago Region Trees Initiative.

Village Commons of Adare Farms

The residents of Adare Farms were concerned about their trees and took the initiative to care for, protect and improve the trees in their homeowner association. The neighborhood was hit hard by emerald ash borer and the loss of trees impressed upon the residents how important it was to increase the diversity of their forest and to manage their trees in a more proactive manner. The homeowner’s association decided to write a management plan for their trees, but soon realized that in order to increase diversity they first needed an inventory of the trees that they already have. The homeowner’s association didn’t have funds to hire someone to do the inventory, so several of the residents took it upon themselves. They bought a GPS unit, enlisted the help of a couple of TreeKeepers and hit the streets. In a morning they identified and geo-located nearly 500 trees in their neighborhood. They are now working on using this inventory to write a management plan so they can select new trees to replace the ashes they lost. The tireless effort of the Adare Farm’s residents has fostered awareness and interest in caring for trees throughout the neighborhood, and exemplified how citizens can take initiative to create a more sustainable forest. 

Partnerships for Success
Village of Riverwoods, the Riverwoods Preservation Council, and Riverwoods Residents Association Plant Committee

The Village of Riverwoods is small but it encompasses a diverse set of natural environments including large areas of upland woodlands, flatwoods and floodplain forest.  The Riverwoods Preservation Council is an all-volunteer, resident-run 501c(3) corporation dedicated to preserve the Village’s native woodlands and ecological heritage.  These two units work together to support the urban forest. The Preservation Council has been instrumental in development of the Village’s woodland ordinances and cost sharing program.  They conduct annual public education programs and volunteer to plant and maintain community garden areas.  They host a plant sale which emphasizes trees and shrubs native to the area woodlands.  They even provide consulting services to residents on their individual properties. They host workdays and teach youth about invasive plants and local ecology. The village adopted a tree ordinance which declared trees to be “an important public resource enhancing the quality of life.  This ordinance requires approval of the village forester for any type of tree work, specifies the size and types of trees subject to restrictions and replacement including penalties for violations. The village adopted an ordinance designed to protect at least 70% of the village’s woodlands. The Preservation Council wrote and published a comprehensive guide entitled “In Our Own Backyard, a Guide to the Pleasures, Possibilities and Responsibilities of Living in Harmony with Nature”.  This guide has been distributed to every resident in Riverwoods.  The village had created a restoration demonstration center to assist residents in realizing the vision of the village and the Preservation Council. The village and the council are great partners in supporting our urban forest.

Historic Oak Propagation Project

The Historic Oak Propagation Project project continues to generate interest and results!  Under the direction of Kathryn Jonas and Julie Samuels (Daniella correct Julie’s name here!) an all out effort was generated to collect acorns from white oak trees in the Village that were 200-300 years old. 400 acorns were potted up with nearly 100% germination! These trees were lovingly cared for until they were large enough to transplant out with adoptive families in the Village of Oak Park. These trees were lovingly cared for until they were large enough to transplant out with adoptive families in the Village of Oak Park. Residents were required to complete an application form, pay $25 to cover the costs and agree to properly care for the trees. They were also asked to allow TreeKeepers to monitor the trees on an ongoing basis. The trees where then delivered to their new homes. Each tree was serial numbered and address located to track their success. Local education and outreach was and continues to be provided to engage the public in the project and to encourage people to become involved. The project continues to thrive as the young trees continue to be distributed throughout the Village. Though HOPP was developed under the direction of Kathryn and Julie, it was a collaborative effort of the Openlands TreeKeepers and The Morton Arboretum – a true partnership for success!