You Can Be a Tree Planter!  

By Grace Kuikman 

Myth: You have to be big and strong to plant trees. 

Reality: Just about anyone can help.  

The first time I helped out at an Openlands TreePlanters day, I didn’t know what to expect. As suggested, I dressed in work clothes, wore sturdy shoes and brought my gardening gloves. I arrived at the gathering place to find an array of volunteers, school kids to seniors, in all sizes and shapes.  

Everyone was welcomed with coffee and doughnuts, given planting instructions by the Openlands Forestry Crew and certified TreeKeepersdivided into small groups, armed with shovels, wheelbarrows and buckets, then assigned to experienced group leaders and sent to our planting destinations.  

Small trees, their root balls tied up in burlap, were positioned on the parkway where they were to be planted. Volunteers helped with a variety of tasks, from digging up and removing grass to measuring the correct diameter and depth of the holes, to taking turns digging. Everyone gave their two cents on important issues like whether the hole should be an inch or two deeper or the tree trunk was straight, and once everyone was satisfied, the holes were filled, the dirt tamped down and the mulch spread.  

Homeowners were given a set of simple instructions: Give the new tree plenty of water and a little TLC while its getting established 

We all went home feeling great about what we accomplished, and that sense of satisfaction does not go away: every time I drive through the neighborhood or look out my front window, I see trees that I helped to plant. It feels good to know that my investment of a few hours a couple times a year is helping to make our neighborhood healthier and more beautiful.  

You can feel good too! 

On Sat., Sept. 21, 8:30 a.m. to noon, BAPA will be hosting the fall Openlands TreePlanter day, planting trees on parkways between 95th and 101st streets on Damen, Seeley and Winchester. This planting will put the total of trees acquired through BAPA grants in the last three years past 150  More than 20 volunteers are needed, and students can earn service hours.  

Openlands TreePlanters grants provide new trees in Chicago neighborhoods and near south suburbs. Mary Jo Viero, BAPA Community Organizer, works with area residents to submit grant applications and oversee planting days. Interested in learning more? Contact Viero, 773-233-3100 or 

Founded in 1963, Openlands protects natural open spaces in northeastern Illinois to ensure cleaner air and water, protect natural habitats and wildlife, and help balance and enrich people’s lives. Learn more at  


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