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‘Food forest’ takes root in McKinley Park

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Vols plant fruit and nut trees at Community Garden

By Kelly White

McKinley Park’s Community Garden is growing, and those who nurture it showed a bit of foresight late last month.

A total of 23 fruit and nut trees were planted at the Community Garden, located between the north and south-bound Damen, just north of Pershing Road.

GSWNH FoodForest01 110422

Nearly two dozen fruit and nut trees were planted by volunteers late last month at the McKinley Park Garden. They are expected to yield delicious and nutritious treats for passersby in the years ahead. –Greater Southwest News-Herald photos by Kelly White

“The inspiration was to create something of a food forest, and to continue to enhance a great space for people of our city to enjoy,” garden manager Nicholas Efrosinis said. “These trees can offer a passerby something to eat out of the park. It is an opportunity to ground city-dwellers in nature and demonstrate how people can work towards sustainable food practices, even in their city lots.”

The fruit and nut trees are expected to bear pears, persimmons, pecans, plums, paw-paws, hazelnut, juneberry and witch-hazel.

They were provided by the Chicago Region Tree Initiative out of the Morton Arboretum. The Morton Arboretum is a 1,700-acre tree-focused botanical garden and global scientific tree research center in suburban Lisle.

Volunteers ranged from young children to senior citizens and with mild weather on a Saturday.

“The Chicago Region Trees Initiative was motivated to expand the tree canopy of Chicago and reached out to the McKinley Park Development Council on pursuing this project,” Efrosinis said. “This was fortuitous because we had simultaneously been seeking support to plant fruit trees in our park.”

Founded by The Morton Arboretum and Openlands, the CRTI was established in 2014 and is a partnership for coordinated action to improve the health, diversity, and equitable distribution of trees in the Chicago region to benefit people and communities.GSWNH FoodForest02 110422

It is the largest initiative of its kind in the United States. CRTI brings together more than 200 partners from industry, community, and government organizations with a comprehensive plan to lead regional action for trees through 2050.

“The entire project is truly a group effort,” Efrosinis said.

In the years to come, the 23 planted trees will be maintained by gardeners from the McKinley Park Community Garden and will yield food for anyone passing through the neighborhood to freely enjoy.

The McKinley Park Community Garden was founded in the fall of 2012. The following year was the first year of planting, growing and harvesting in individual raised beds on a vacant lot near Pershing and Winchester. It is run entirely by volunteers and is designed to build a more friendly and cohesive community through the joys of gardening.

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