By Cassandra West
Now when Oak Park residents step outside, they will have the pleasure of knowing they’re taking a stroll in an officially designated arboretum. The Morton Arboretum announced the accreditation recently in a letter to the village from its president and CEO, Gerard Donnelly. Based in Lisle, The Morton Arboretum created the program that gives municipalities arboretum status “to encourage knowledge, experience and resource sharing among keepers of tree-focused public gardens,” a message posted on the village’s website says.
Oak Park’s accreditation is unusual in that it’s for the entire Village, not a defined area such as a park. A recent inventory counted 18,744 trees on Village-owned property and another 2,572 on Park District properties. The Village and Park District of Oak Park submitted a joint application several months ago for accreditation through the ArbNet Arboretum Accreditation Program.
Bill Sieck, executive director of The Learning Gardens of Oak Park, spearheaded the effort to bring the accreditation program to the attention of the Village and Park District, according to Village Forestry Superintendent Robert Sproule. The Learning Gardens is committed to turning all of Oak Park into a botanic garden by educating residents about all the trees, shrubs, flowers, and food that can be grown locally.
At noon on Friday, April 24, the Village and Park District will hold a formal ceremony at Scoville Park, 800 Lake St., to acknowledge the arboretum accreditation. The Arbor Day event will include students from the Green Club at Beye Elementary School who will plant three saplings grown from the acorns of some of Oak Park’s oldest oak trees.