Celebrate OAKtober Tree Forum

Vaclav Volrab/Shutterstock

Vaclav Volrab/Shutterstock

By Barbara Rose

“We are not separate from nature, we are of it, and in it, and we need an ethical framework to match. We need a tree culture, a nourishing mutualism that embeds us in creation.”
—Author and journalist Lynda V. Mapes

Some of our area’s oldest living beings are oaks that sunk roots here long before the first European settlers arrived. Ernest Hemingway might have walked under their branches. Generations of children played in their shade.

Celebrate OAKtober Tree Forum will honor these oaks and point us forward toward a “tree culture” in which we collaborate with one another and nature to sustain our common home. 

Featuring four exceptional speakers and information tables, the event will be from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 13, in the 2nd floor Veterans’ Room of the Oak Park Main Library, 834 Lake St. Doors open at 1:30 p.m.; talks start at 2 p.m. The program is sponsored by West Cook Wild Ones and the library.

Capping the speakers is a plants-man whose work embodies collaboration with nature: author and landscaper Roy Diblik (The Know Maintenance Perennial Garden, Timber Press, 2014), perhaps best known for his work in the Midwest with Lurie Gardens creator Piet Oudolf.

Plants grow in communities, he reminds us. Yet we “plop trees into a heavy clay hole and hope they survive.” He’ll discuss how well-chosen companion plants provide better growing environments for trees than turf and why wood mulch may not always be the best fertilizer.

The program will lead off with arborist Lydia Scott, director of the Chicago Region Trees Initiative at The Morton Arboretum. She’ll speak about the oak ecosystems that defined our region’s ecology before European settlers arrived, what little remains of them today and how we can join regional efforts to protect and enhance them.

Arborist Mark Duntemann, who specializes in managing and preserving trees with local cultural and ecological significance, will describe a year-long project to map Oak Park’s large diameter oaks, remnants of a pre-European woodland.  He’ll talk about their importance and the community’s role in preserving this dwindling population.

Robert Sproule is a Master Arborist who worked in New York and Chicago before joining Oak Park’s Forestry Department, where he’s been superintendent for 5-1/2 years. He’ll provide an overview of the village’s more than 18,000 trees in parkways and parks, which earned Oak Park the designation of Village Arboretum, and he’ll discuss current management practices and possible future plans.

Come early and stay late to share popcorn and fellowship while visiting information tables.  Environmental activist Julie Samuels, who worked with the late Kathryn Jonas in founding the Heritage Oak Propagation Project (HOPP), will explain how you can adopt and plant an oak sapling.

HOPP was started to preserve the genetic material from Oak Park’s pre-settlement oaks, which are nearing the end of their lifespan. Saplings grown from their acorns were later planted in both public and private spaces. Thirty more saplings are available this fall.

To register for this free public event, visit https://tinyurl.com/oaktobertreeforum/