Beautification Projects: Falling for New Trees and Landscapes

By Kristin Boza

The lush, tree-lined streets are one of the many points of pride in Beverly/Morgan Park. Unfortunately, many neighbors have lost trees over the years due to disease or vicious storms and high winds. In order to preserve the look and feel of our neighborhood, BAPA, the 19th Ward and the West Beverly Civic Association obtained a series of grants to plant trees that will be enjoyed for decades to come.

Openlands Tree Plantings

Mary Jo Viero, BAPA community organizer, is integral to operating the ongoing Openlands TreePlanters Grant program. Openlands is open to all Chicago residents looking to plant a tree on their parkway, and it is also open for other public spaces, including CPS school property and some vacant lots. The idea is to engage the community to identify areas where trees are needed and assist in the planting and care of the trees.

The trees require a commitment of time and water; Openlands states that each tree needs 20 gallons of water a week, spring through fall, for the first three years. Openlands will provide the delivery of the trees and mulch, planting tools and gloves, permits and the marking of underground utilities, and training to all volunteers.

Openlands tree plantings are currently scheduled for Wed., Oct. 12 and Wed., Nov. 2 in West Beverly, and the grants were secured by Joe Murphy, president of the West Beverly Civic Association.

“We blanketed West Beverly with the grant forms provided by BAPA asking if they would like a parkway tree, since many trees were lost in this area due to the emerald ash borer,” Murphy said. “We submitted the requests to Openlands, and they reviewed our address requests and sent out city foresters to see if the area was appropriate for a tree, namely ensuring there were no conflicts with utility or light poles, fire hydrants, etc.”

The trees will be planted on the parkways of residences and on the parkway areas of St. John Fisher parish and school.

Murphy, a landscape architect for EXP, recognizes the importance of replacing lost foliage. “Trees are so valuable with reducing the heat island effect, keeping pollution down by capturing airborne particles and providing shade,” he said.

“Our community is unique because of the beautiful legacy of trees, but we have to continually take care of it,” Viero said. “If there’s an empty spot on your parkway, let’s plant a tree! The city is backlogged with requests, but through the Openlands grant you can get a small tree for free, or donate $100 to Openlands for a larger tree.”

For any neighbors and neighborhood organizations wishing to apply for an Openlands grant or volunteer for the upcoming plantings, contact Viero at BAPA, 773-233-3100, ext, 206. “You can apply in the summer for the fall planting, or up until January for the spring,” Viero said.

Openlands ensures that the trees planted are the right ones for our area, and they take care to mix up the species of trees planted. “It’s important to vary the species of trees planted so that a plant disease doesn’t kill all of them at once,” Viero said.


For 19th Ward residents who wish to plant a tree on their private property, the Oaktoberfest sapling program is the way to go. The program is organized locally by the 19th Ward Office, as a part of the Restore the Canopy initiative sponsored by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) of Greater Chicago. Saplings can be picked up on Sun., Oct. 23, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the 19th Ward pumpkin patch at Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, 3857 W. 111th St.

The MWRD launched the sapling program this year in order to aid in managing stormwater and educating communities and schools on the value of Chicago’s tree canopies.

“The MWRD would like residents to provide the address of where the sapling will be planted so they can map it and get a better idea of the tree canopy for our region,” said Jaime Blakesley, Environmental Planner and volunteer on the 19th Ward Environmental Committee.

The 19th Ward was approached by the MWRD to help with the sapling give-away, in part due to the success of last year’s rain barrel program, also a MWRD initiative. According to the MWRD website, a medium-sized oak tree can help prevent flooding by absorbing 2,800 gallons of rainfall per year, which in turn can ease the stress on the sewer system.

“For our neighborhood in particular, planting new oak trees will help enhance our existing mature oaks and ensure that we continue to have beautiful tree-lined streets for decades to come,” Blakesley said. “In the late 1800s, oak trees comprised more than half of the tree canopy in the Chicago area; today that is estimated to be around only five percent. This program will help restore our natural history heritage, control stormwater and keep Beverly green.”

New Landscaping on the Hill

Besides restoring our tree canopy, BAPA is involved in the beautification and relandscaping of the hill on the north side of 107th Street, Seeley Avenue to Longwood Drive. Paid for with the funds raised through BAPA’s Bikes and Brews, the project calls for railroad ties to be removed and the land to be re-graded so that it does not need additional supports, according to Viero. The weeds lining the area will be removed and sod will be laid. Working with BAPA on this initiative are the 19th Ward and Doran Landscaping. Beacon Therapeutic School will provide watering and maintenance of the new grass parkway.

“BAPA is committed to keeping our neighborhood beautiful. We do that by raising funds at our events and putting the money back into the community,” Viero said. “Maintenance of our land is a year-round job, which is why we started Weeding Wednesdays to encourage neighbors to come out to help us weed public spaces.”

Looking ahead to 2017, Viero is interested in expanding beautification efforts. “We are creating a menu of landscape plans that are easy to maintain and would create a consistent look throughout the neighborhood,” she said. “We want to encourage residents, civic associations, scout troops, churches, and neighborhood businesses to pick a space and implement the landscape plan then maintain it.”


Tips for Caring for Your Sapling

Here are some tips on planting and caring for your sapling from Restore the Canopy:

  1. Keep your tree in a cool place. Do not take it out of its container until you are able to plant it.
  2. If you received a bare-root sapling (i.e., not in a container), plant it within two days for best results.
  3. Choose a planting location where your tree has room to grow. Full-grown oak trees range from 50 to 80 feet tall. Do not plant under a power line.
  4. Dig a hole wide enough to let the roots spread out completely and deep enough to cover the roots. The topmost roots should be at ground level and visible.
  5. Fill the hole with soil, making sure the tree is straight by pressing around the stem. Water the tree after filling the planting hole until water accumulates on the surface.
  6. If you use mulch, keep it away from the trunk.
  7. Keeping your tree watered is important during the first year. Keep the soil moist but not soggy. In dry weather, you should water every 7 to 10 days. Avoid watering so much that you see standing water. There’s no need to water once the ground freezes.




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