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Openlands Launches Major Urban Forestry Initiative

October 17, 2013


On October 10, Openlands launched a major new tree planting program in Chicago with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and local community partners. The focus of this urban forestry initiative is to increase the number and quality of the trees in the city, while creating educational opportunities for citizens to care about and to plant trees within their neighborhood parks, streets, and natural areas. Through hands-on education, communities learn the multiple benefits of trees and are encouraged to adopt and care for their trees. Beyond providing shade and beauty, city trees clean air, capture and clean water, support biodiversity, and conserve energy.

Held on a sunny afternoon in the Chicago Lawn neighborhood, the kick-off event included the planting of five trees by Openlands’ TreeKeepers and neighbors.  It was directly adjacent to Donald L. Morrill Math & Science School, where Openlands unveiled a new school garden in June. Mayor Emanuel, Openlands President & CEO Jerry Adelmann, and The Southwest Organizing Project Executive Director Jeff Bartow, who is partnering with Openlands, spoke to the assembled students, community members, and city officials about the benefits of trees and their importance in building strong neighborhoods.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Openlands President & CEO Jerry Adelmann, and SWOP Executive Director spoke to the assembled students, community members, and city officials about the benefits of trees and their importance in building strong neighborhoods.

“Chicago’s motto is ‘City in a garden’ and generations of Chicagoans have helped preserve and protect this legacy,” said Mayor Emanuel. “Trees are a critical part of our heritage as they enhance the livability of our neighborhoods and the health of our city. We welcome the Openlands Urban Forestry Initiative and look forward to working together to improve sustainability and quality of life throughout Chicago.”

“Since launching the TreeKeepers program in 1991, Openlands has been at the forefront of protecting Chicago’s urban forest through the dedication of citizen volunteers,” said Jerry Adelmann. “This initiative adds tree planting to the scope of Openlands’ work on a huge, but focused scale. Yet even as we embark on this new initiative, our commitment remains on making a smart impact, not simply planting trees, but working with communities to both plant and care for their new trees.”

"SWOP is in the midst of a campaign to reclaim houses that are now vacant because of the foreclosure crisis,” said Jeff Bartow. “The partnership with Morrill School and Openlands is a way to strengthen that work because it brings schools, families, and other organizations together to make positive change in our neighborhoods."

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is supporting the initiative with a $500,000 grant to plant 5,000 trees between now and the end of 2015. The Boeing Company is providing support with a grant to Openlands to provide education and outreach in the Chicago Lawn neighborhood.

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