A crowd of about 50 people were on hand when 40 trees were planted at Commissioners Park in Justice thanks to a Openlands TreePlanters grant. (Supplied photos)

A crowd of about 50 people were on hand when 40 trees were planted at Commissioners Park in Justice thanks to a Openlands TreePlanters grant. (Supplied photos)

Openlands grant brings 40 new trees to Justice park

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Justice Park District staffers, commissioners and elected officials were on hand for the tree planting at Commissioners Park.

From staff reports

A total of 40 new trees were recently planted at Commissioners Park in Justice thanks to an Openlands TreePlanters Grant awarded to the Justice Park District.

Over 50 people gathered on October 28 to participate in the tree planting event, including community members, volunteers, Openlands staff, Justice Park District staff and commissioners, and Boy Scouts.

“It was wonderful to see the community come together to plant 40 trees. Ten years down the road, families can take a walk around the walking path and point out the tree that they planted together. It was a meaningful experience,” said Park District Executive Director Jennifer Torres

Openlands is an organization founded in 1963 that aims to protect and preserve the natural and open spaces of northeastern Illinois and the surrounding region. They work towards achieving their environmental goals through various programs, including the TreePlanters Grant program.

This program awards grants to individuals, groups, or organizations that can bring together their neighbors to plant trees in predetermined locations within their community. Openlands provides the education, organization, supplies, expertise, and quality control on the planting day, while the grantee works with Openlands to host an educational and engaging tree-planting event.

“This was an incredible community event. We are grateful to Openlands and our staff who worked hard to make this happen. Looking forward for to watching these trees grow for years to come, said Park Commissioner Carrie Bernardoni

During the tree planting event, Openlands showcased two more programs: TreeKeepers and the Arborist Registered Apprenticeship.

The TreeKeeper Certification Course is a comprehensive program that provides accessible training and education to individuals of all ages and backgrounds. The month-long course helps participants develop an appreciation for trees in our region, learn about urban forestry in the age of climate change, and best practices in tree planting and care. On the other hand, the Arborist Registered Apprenticeship is a three-year paid training program administered by Openlands in partnership with the Department of Labor and Tree Care Companies across the Chicago region. The apprenticeship program collaborates with the industry to improve recruitment and retention and create a path for a more diverse and experienced applicant pool. Openlands’ apprenticeship program is the only one in Illinois and one of ten nationwide.

The trees planted in Commissioners Park serve multiple purposes. Apart from providing shade and enhancing the park’s beauty, they also help manage flooding. Oaks are highly significant for Illinois ecosystems, as they provide food and shelter for over 200 species, ranging from microorganisms to deer and squirrels. That’s why more than half of the trees planted in Commissioners Park are oaks.

The Village of Justice and its surrounding areas had flourishing pre-settlement oak ecosystems, the remnants of which can still be seen in Buffalo Woods nearby, so it was important to honor the region’s ecological history.

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