On Saturday, Oct. 5, Logan Square Preservation will hold a tree-planting event on Logan Boulevard. With the assistance of volunteers, LSP will be planting 24 trees in the gaps left by those that have naturally expired or been removed by Streets and Sanitation due to infestation by the invasive emerald ash borer.
This effort to beautify Loan Square has been made possible by Openlands, a conservation organization that provides grants to communities seeking to enhance their greenspace.
The event begins at 9:00 a.m. at 2909 W. Logan Blvd and will continue until all of the trees are planted; the work will likely be done by 1 p.m. at the latest. Certified instructors will provide guidance on proper planting techniques.
While the roster of volunteers for this event has unexpectedly reached capacity, fear not. There will be plenty of opportunities to contribute. LSP is in need of people willing to commit to watering the trees until their young roots have suitably established and Mother Nature can take over. The project is in particular need of homeowners living on either side of the boulevard between Francisco and Mozart (the blocks of 2830 and West 3000) who are willing to provide access to their water supplies.
While of course homeowners are welcome to do the watering themselves, it isn’t necessary. LSP will provide 200-foot hoses and hopes to recruit a rotating crew of volunteer water stewards. All they really need is consistent access to working spigots.
Further, LSP intends to enact similar projects on Kedzie and Humboldt in the coming years, with another, larger event to be held this coming spring and further events planned in the coming years. The October event will inaugurate the Boulevard Landscape Master Plan, commissioned by LSP as part of an effort to ensure the arboreal integrity of our streets as envisioned by world-famous landscape architects Frederick Law Olmstead, William LeBaron Jenney, Daniel Burnham, and Jens Jensen.
In advance of the event, I sat down with LSP Beautification Committee Chair Shana Liberman to talk about the genesis of the project and the value of maintaining the trees lining our lush boulevards, which have been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1985.
LoganSquarist: How did LSP conceive of this project?
Shana Liberman: [The Boulevard Landscape Master Plan was completed in 2017.] This year we applied for a grant, working with a community forestry organization called Openlands. They have a tree-planting program open to all types of organizations and neighborhood groups. It isn’t a specified dollar amount. They typically request programs that are looking to plant anywhere between 10 and 40 trees. They tend to be either preservation groups or development groups that are looking to plant out a parcel of land.
The grant entails the permitting, the insurance, the supplies, the tools, and then day-of-planting supervision and instruction, and then the inventory. Based on the species you’re looking for, they’ll procure them from local nurseries and bring them on site.
What was involved in getting the project off the ground?
We had to meet with the alderman’s office, the Department of Forestry, and the Department of Transportation. Obviously there are transportation issues since we’re planting on the median. We also met with the Department of Planning, got them in a room, reviewed the plan with them. It’s parkland. It’s city property. You can’t just put in what you want nor can you take out the trees that are in the way. The hurdles are really permitting and the licensing and insurance. When you work with a community forestry organization like Openlands, they’ve already got all of the permits. It makes it so much easier.
We also do fundraising. Our biannual housewalk is our biggest fundraiser. It’ll be coming up next September, in the year 2020. We pick a different area every time. We get homeowners to open up their homes and we sell tickets. That money goes to beautification efforts like tree planting.
What do you need from the community to make this project work?
[We] are responsible for rallying volunteers. As head of the beautification committee, that’s my responsibility. We’re really trying to get people to come out and do the planting as well as to commit to watering.
What we’re really trying to do is engage parts of the community that might not really care about [LSP]. I went around this morning and handed out flyers at the farmer’s market. We’re trying to get a lot of families to participate. It’s a great opportunity to teach kids about the value of trees. Who doesn’t love planting trees? I haven’t gotten any pushback.
How did you choose the species that would be planted?
Openlands went out to the nurseries and said we can find you catalpa, we can find you hackberry, we can find you Kentucky coffee. We just lined up the ones they were able to find. Anything outside of that we’ll have to fund ourselves. We’re predominantly planting elms, coffee trees, hackberry, catalpa, and one or two others. They’re pretty much all native. Some are native to Illinois, and then some are native to the U.S.
The trees themselves are going to be very young. They’re probably going to be an inch and a half to two inches in diameter. Smaller trees are easier to transplant and they will be most resistant to shock. The larger the tree, the more stress on the tree. It requires more water and more time for the roots to establish. It also makes it easier for the volunteers. Nobody wants to be moving a 20-foot tree. They will mature and we’re planting species that will be there for decades. Once they’re established, they’ll shoot up. They’ll be able to transform the landscape relatively quickly, as opposed to some of the slower ones like an oak, which would take maybe 40, 50 years for it to be substantial.
Back when the boulevards were originally planted, they had a very singular species design in mind. What happens when you don’t have diversity is that pests like the emerald ash borer or Dutch elm disease destroy every tree. If you plant diverse species, and then you get some kind of devastation, it’s just one tree or two trees, not an entire community. We’re hoping that the species we’re going to plant will last 60 to 80 to 100 years, especially some of the elms. The elms that Openlands got for us are resistant [to Dutch elm]. They are actually a graft.
We requested about 22 trees for our block plantings, but then Openlands said that if I came across any neighbor on these blocks who wanted a tree on their parkway, they’d be happy to supplement the program. So I’ve been asking if there’s anyone who would like a tree. Openlands has a number of oaks. Our plan doesn’t really include those but I’ve got a number of takers.
What will this project contribute to the community?
This plan really preserves the integrity of the boulevard system as it was designed by Olmstead. A boulevard planting is a straight line of trees. That helps to provide that arcing structure of the canopies enveloping the boulevard, so it has a very Parisian look to it.
On many of the medians you’ll see trees planted throughout. There are some very large ones planted maybe 60 years ago in the middle. The idea of planting in these straight lines is to give shade but also enough sun so that it can be used recreationally for picnics or people hanging out. If it’s too densely planted, what you get is kind of a dark thicket and poor drainage. And you get areas that people don’t want to hang out in. So what we’re trying to do is ensure that the medians are ideal for people to use.
Studies have shown that trees lining a corridor tend to calm drivers down. There’s these huge monoliths. The aesthetic beauty tends to lend a calmness. It supports safety. You don’t necessarily think about that. We’re thinking about recreation, we’re thinking about carbon dioxide sequestering, erosion, managing water tables—not necessarily people’s mental state.
If you have questions on the program or want to volunteer to water the trees, contact LSP at [email protected].
Featured photo: Richard Pallardy