A new tree, planted in celebration of Arbor Day on April 24, graces the park at Harrison Street and Beloit Avenue.

The bur oak tree, donated by McAdam Landscaping and planted by Forest Park’s public works department and the Park District of Forest Park, represents the last step in the village’s pursuit of official designation by the National Arbor Day Foundation as a Tree City USA, a national recognition that’s been around since 1976.

Commissioner Jessica Voogd has worked with Village Administrator Tim Gillian and Director of Public Works John Doss to complete the steps of the application process.

The Arbor Day Foundation lists four standards a village must meet in order to receive recognition: having a tree board or department, putting into place a tree care ordinance, a community forestry program with an annual budget of at least $2 per capita, and an Arbor Day proclamation and observance. The village council voted to adopt a tree care ordinance in October 2019 and issued an official proclamation of Arbor Day at a January 2020 meeting.

According to Voogd, the April 24 Arbor Day celebration was planned as a much bigger event, involving the village, the park district and District 91. But the timing of this year’s Arbor Day, which is held annually on the last Friday of April, makes it impossible to bring everyone together as originally planned due to COVID-19 social distancing.

“For now, that bigger celebration is being postponed,” said Voogd.

A notice from the village to residents addressed Arbor Day and the disappointment felt by many that a big celebration couldn’t happen at this time.

“The village, the park district, Forest Park School District 91, McAdam Landscaping, along with Forest Park resident and Tree City expert Kurt Hansen spent several months planning a big Arbor Day celebration,” reads the memo.

Part of the celebration would have included a tree being planted at each school, in addition to the one at the park district. McAdam Landscaping is still donating the trees for the schools, but they will be planted at a later date in the fall.

Despite the big celebration being postponed, Voogd said the tree planting, which she attended, “was pretty great.”

“As a village, we want to celebrate trees and take care of them,” said Voogd, who said the designation might help with grant applications in the future. “Getting the Tree City USA designation puts us on the map with other cities that have it.”

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