Decades of commitment to nurturing, diversifying and protecting its urban forest has earned Oak Park recognition as Illinois’ first — and the nation’s fourth — municipal arboretum.
The accreditation came from the venerable Morton Arboretum, which created the program to encourage knowledge, experience and resource sharing among keepers of tree-focused public gardens.
What makes Oak Park’s accreditation unusual is that it is for the entire Village, rather than for a specific, defined area within a community such as a park.
The Village and Park District of Oak Park submitted a joint application for accreditation through Morton’s ArbNet Arboretum Accreditation Program. Together, the two Oak Park taxing bodies share responsibility for the more than 21,000 trees on public property throughout the Village’s four and a half square miles.
To be considered for accreditation, an applicant must have more than 100 different species of trees and an identification system. The applicant also must have at least one paid arboretum employee, policies that govern tree care and offer public education programs.
A recent survey of all of the trees on public property in Oak Park played a key role in earning the accreditation.
The species, size and condition of 18,744 trees were catalogued on Village-owned property, and the Park District tallied another 2,572 trees on its properties. Together, these trees represent about 130 different species.
Data from the survey eventually will be available online so that residents can learn details about specific trees on their parkways and in their neighborhood parks.
For more information about Oak Park’s forestry programs, call 708.358.5700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.