IT IS ESTIMATED that Lake Forest has lost almost 100,000 trees over the last decade. Their absence—most notably in our ash trees—is painfully obvious each autumn, their glimmering, golden beauty erased from our parkways by the emerald ash borer. But the role of our trees extends far beyond the beautification of public and private landscapes.
Trees assist in the management of rainwater, reducing flooding and absorbing run-off between properties and in the parkways. They clean the air we breathe, filtering and removing pollution and mitigating its harmful effects. Trees also play a tremendous role in combating climate change by storing carbon and through the process of evapotranspiration, which cools our air.
The city of Lake Forest’s Forestry Department has worked tirelessly at their task of reforestation, often working in conjunction with Lake Forest Open Lands Association (LFOLA) to promote trees and planting. This April will mark Lake Forest’s 40th year and Lake Bluff ’s 24th year as Tree City USA Communities (an Arbor Day Foundation program) which requires four core standards of a healthy community forestry program, including the observance of Arbor Day. Corey Wierema, Forestry Supervisor for the city of Lake Forest, explains that on Arbor Day’s past, they provided seedlings to send home with school children but recently shifted gears.
“Last year we changed our plan due to COVID precautions. We already had the seedlings on hand and really wanted to promote Arbor Day, so we came up with the idea of making it more available to the community.” Makeshift kiosks were set up throughout town where residents could pick up a tree seedling, which was shared through the city’s website and social media. “We had a terrific response, so we plan to do it again this year, partnering with Lake Forest Open Lands,” says Wierema.
The first Arbor Day celebration occurred in Nebraska April 10, 1872, where prizes were given to counties and individuals for the largest number of trees planted. Records estimate that over 1 million went into the ground that day. In 1885, Arbor Day was named a legal state holiday in Nebraska, and now it is observed in all 50 states.
Planting a native tree is one of the best ways to celebrate National Arbor Day, which lands on April 30 this year. “Planting native trees, shrubs, and plants is just a great habit to get into. They are already well adapted to our climate, you’re not bringing in outside stuff, and our native birds, insects, and animals rely on them to survive,” says Wierema.
Bald Cypress, Yellow Birch, Bitternut Hickory, and Buckeye are just a few of the unexpected suggested native trees listed on the City of Lake Forest’s website, which can be found in the Forestry Department’s document section. Native trees are adapted to thrive locally, requiring less water, fertilizer, and pesticides. As a result, planting them aids in the protection of our environment, ground water, and Lake Michigan.
Whether planting a native seedling from one of the city’s Arbor Day kiosks or a native tree from the local nursery, or simply taking a hike through one of our extraordinary LFOLA nature preserves, National Arbor Day is the ideal time to support and celebrate our community’s commitment to nature.
For more ideas on celebrating National Arbor Day, visit arborday.org. For tips and information on native plants, visit the forestry department at cityoflakeforest.com or contact Forestry Supervisor Corey Wierema at [email protected].