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Green Community Connections provides a place to tap into conversations about sustainability issues and to identify concrete steps you can take. We believe change is both necessary and possible and the best way to get there is together. Learn more About Us.

Build a Park, Not a Tower


An Opinion Piece by Adrian Fisher

The Oak Park Comprehensive Plan recommends finding more open space. The Park District of Oak Park Master Plan states that opportunities should be sought to increase park space. The Oak Park-River Forest Sustainability Plan includes the goal of increasing green space and green infrastructure in the villages.

Yet, Oak Park is in danger of destroying one of our most precious open-spaces and historic treasures: Austin Gardens. The 21-story Vantage Oak Park already casts long morning shadows where there were none before. Now a developer interested in the property at 1000 Lake wants a zoning variance to build another tall building. This might be good for Albion. However, for Oak Park residents, the long-term results would be diminished quality of life and a ruined park. Trees, some over 100 years old, would be in danger of dying. The village as a whole would lose.

There’s a better idea. The Village, possibly in partnership with the Park District and other entities, should purchase the land and build a park. This would have several advantages beyond the admirable ones of beauty and delight. A park would enhance the Lake Street streetscape, provide a gateway to Austin Gardens and the Frank Lloyd Wright district beyond, and possibly increase surrounding property values. A multifunctional park would add to the district’s livability, improve quality of life, and provide a welcoming atmosphere for locals and the many visitors arriving each year.

What might this urban oasis be like? Benches, tables and chairs would attract people to meet, eat lunch, and relax. Sustainability and green infrastructure features could include a sunshelter–roofed with solar panels–over part of the area, a rain garden featuring flowering native plants, and well-placed native trees. The park would provide welcome habitat for humans, birds and pollinators alike, while feeding clean power into the grid and helping manage stormwater.

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Mobilizing to Increase Monarch Habitat

“North American monarch butterflies are in trouble. Threats, including climate change, pesticide use and habitat loss are having a devastating impact on their populations.  Unless we act now to help the Monarch, this amazing animal could disappear in our lifetime.”  — US Fish & Wildlife Service

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is evaluating the status of the monarch butterfly for listing under the Endangered Species Act.  Faced with the possibility of extinction of this beloved species, communities locally and nationally are mobilizing to increase monarch habitat.  That’s where Oak Park and River Forest come in.  It turns out that urban and suburban areas are the monarch’s best hope for survival.

To build awareness and engage the public, a core group of partners is hosting a campaign kick-off with two community gatherings at the Oak Park Main Library on Tues., Jan. 31, at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m.  The organizing group includes West Cook Wild Ones, River Forest Sustainability Committee, Seven Generations Ahead, the Green Guides Network (a project of PlanItGreen) and Green Community Connections.  This event is free and open to the public.

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Bring Life to Your Garden

Photo by Rick Darke

Photo by Rick Darke

Nature is under threat, and it’s up to us to protect it. What can we do? We can help heal nature by planting native plants. It’s not expensive and it’s not difficult. In fact, you can learn how to do it at an upcoming conference on Saturday, Feb. 11, at Triton College in River Grove.

The Naturally Beautiful Garden conference will provide practical advice on creating stunning home gardens using layers found in native ecosystems. These layers support life: soil organisms, insects, birds and more.

Landscape architect Rick Darke, co-author with Douglas Tallamy of “The Living Landscape,” and Heather Holm, author of “Pollinators of Native Plants,” will lead the half-day conference on how to design home landscapes that not only look beautiful but also support the surrounding regional ecosystem. The conference is hosted by the West Cook chapter of Wild Ones, a national native plant organization.

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Young Filmmakers Workshops Taught Animation and More

Animation stations were provided by Steve and Kate's Camp.

Animation stations were provided by Steve and Kate’s Camp.

Kids in grades 3 to 8 went to the moon, the beach, and a New Year’s Eve party via green screen animation during this year’s One Earth Young Filmmakers Workshops. Held in early December, three workshops taught kids filmmaking skills just for fun and to encourage them enter the One Earth Young Filmmakers Contest.

The first Animation Workshop was held in collaboration with Steve and Kate’s Camp at St. Vincent Ferrer Church on Saturday, Dec. 3. The camp owns several stop-motion workstations with iPads, Legos, and a variety of backgrounds that nearly hypnotized the kids for four hours.

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Book Club to Discuss Johns Muir’s Adventures

Wikimedia Commons

John Muir/Wikimedia Commons

Looking for a way to keep warm this winter that doesn’t involve you sitting in front of the TV in your pajamas? Join a new book club exploring John Muir, father of the National Parks and founder of the Sierra Club. The book club, sponsored by the Oak Park Park District, will meet once a month for three months on Tuesdays, Jan. 24, Feb. 21, and March 21, at Austin Gardens Environmental Education Center, 167 Forest Ave., in Oak Park. There is no charge, but please register here.

“The Wild Muir: Twenty-Two of John Muir’s Greatest Adventures,” will be the primary text for discussion with a focus on a different chapter at each meeting. January will cover, “The Snow Avalanche Ride;” February will focus on, “A Geologists Winter Walk;” and March will review, “The Tree Ride.” You can order a copy from The Book Table (708) 386-9800.

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Thank you to our Presenting Sponsors from the One Earth Film Festival.