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Volunteers plant trees all around Palos Hills

  • Written by Joe Boyle

mulching photo 5-10

                                            Photo by Joe Boyle

A group of teens put the finishing touches to a newly planted tree with some mulching on the 10400 block of Alta Drive in Palos Hills Saturday. Over 150 volunteers took part in the tree planting event.

Community leaders and volunteers of all ages were out in force Saturday morning in Palos Hills with the idea that planting trees is a healthy investment in the future.

The tree planting event began with a ceremony at Town Square Park as Mayor Gerald Bennett reminded the large group of volunteers that this is something the city firmly believes in.

“We have been very aggressive on this," Bennett said. "We have been planting trees throughout the city for years.”

Residents were given the opportunity to register to sign up to help plant one of 200, two-inch diameter trees throughout the city-owned parkways. The trees were free to those residents who were selected to receive one. Residents were encourage to to volunteer with the planting of not one tree, but to plant them for other residents as well.

While trees have been planted along main roads over the past 15 years in Palos Hills, the idea of having one day set aside for a city-wide effort to plant the trees came from Nick Oeffling, the Palos Hills Public Works Commissioner. Oeffling also said he chose this time of the year for the tree planting because Arbor Day was Friday.

"I'm glad that everyone is excited about planting trees," Oeffling said.

Oeffling then introduced Lydia Scott, director of the Chicago Region Trees Initiative for the Morton Arboretum. Oeffling had asked Scott if she could attend the event to provide suggestions and tell the many volunteers the best way to plant trees.

“Don't plant them too deep," advised Scott. "Arbor Day is a celebration of trees and I want to thank you for coming out and taking part in this.”

Scott told the crowd that Arbor Day was first held in 1872 and the idea was created by Jay Sterling Morton, in which the Morton Arboretum would later be named for. On that day, one million trees were planted, Scott said. Morton and his wife had moved from MIchigan to Nebraska, where trees were scarce. With that, Morton gained support and followers in his vision of planting more trees.

Over 150 volunteers took part in planting the trees on Saturday. Community leaders wore green shirts while the volunteers put on orange shirts. Community leaders and public works employees who had received some lessons on how to plant trees were on hand to provide guidance for the volunteers, many of whom were teenagers.

Scott passed out information about how to plant trees. Scott added that a hole dug for a tree should be wide but not that deep. She reminded volunteers that trees need water. Spreading mulch as far as the branches reach will help a tree grow, but do not pile mulch against the tree trunk, according to the Chicago Region Trees Initiative.

Volunteers soon spread out across the city to plant trees over the next four hours. One group planted their first tree on the 10400 block of Alta Drive. While getting used to digging a hole that was the proper depth for the tree, the volunteers then became more confident. They laid out mulch around the tree and were ready for their next assignment.

Palos Hills has been a Tree City with the Arbor Day Foundation sine 1988. Bennett added that Palos Hills has won numerous Tree City USA Awards and Tree City Growth honors.

The Tree City Growth Award is given to communities that go beyond the four standards of Tree City USA and accumulates points from a list of projects that demonstrate improvement and growth of local tree care.

“As I have said, we take growing trees very seriously here," Bennett said. "It was great to see so many people come out. This is great for the environment and people can look 10 to 20 years from now and they can say they planted that tree.”