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Caring for the Environment

In the management of the park system, the Park District of Oak Park strives to set a high standard of leadership and competency in the promotion of sound conservation practices and lifestyles. Below are some of the examples of recent green initiatives enacted by the Park District.

Prescribed Burns
Oak Park Conservatory Bioswale

LEED Certification
Arboretum Status
Recycling at the Park District
Tree Maintenance and Inventory
Tree Inoculations
Heritage Oak Propagation Program
Water Conservation

Greening Advisory Committee and Green Team

Carry In/Carry Out
Lindberg Park Trial Garden Native Plants Restoration
Additional Green Efforts

Prescribed Burns
(Prescribed Burn Fact Sheet)

fireburnphotos__058Prescribed burns are conducted on an annual basis at some of our parks for the purpose of improving the health of the plantings. Necessary weather conditions to proceed with the Prescribed Burns include:

Days Leading up to the Burn

  • Lead Time: 1-3 days dry sunny weather before burn. This is to dry out the dead vegetation. Without sufficient drying time, the vegetation won't burn even if the weather conditions on a particular day are perfect.

Day of the Burn:

  • Wind Direction: West – ideal, NW or SW is acceptable
  • Wind Speed: 3 – 20 mph
  • Low Relative Humidity
  • Atmospheric Conditions: clear skies, stable forecast

Learn more info in the prescribed burn presentation.

For more information about this project, e-mail Chris Lindgren or call (708) 725-2050.

Oak Park Conservatory Bioswale

bioswaleA new bioswale was completed at the Oak Park Conservatory in May 2015. The bioswale has been hard at work collecting and filtering run off water from the street.  Native Illinois plant species are already thriving in their new environment! This project was partially funded by a grant from Com Ed and Openlands.

Pursuing LEED Certification

The Park District of Oak Park is seeking LEED certification on the Ridgeland Common Recreation Complex and the Austin Gardens Environmental Education Center. The Ridgeland Common Recreation Complex was completely renovated in 2014 with Silver LEED specifications by incorporating multiple sustainable concepts into the design and construction of the new site and building. Read more about LEED certification at RCRC. Construction on the Austin Gardens Environmental Education Center will begin in Sept 2015 and will be completed in June 2016. The project will seek Platinum LEED certification. View the presentation about the Austin Gardens Environmental Education Center.

Arboretum Status

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 Village and Park District of Oak Park, together, share responsibility for the more than 21,000 trees on public property throughout the Village’s four and a half square miles. Read more about becoming an arboretum.

Recycling at the Park District

recyclingflyerThe Park District is committed to environmentally-friendly and sustainable practices. Reducing the amount of materials that go into landfills generated by facility operations is a particular focus for the Park District. The single-stream recycling program eliminates the need to separate recyclables. Empty plastic and glass bottles, cardboard, clean paper, and empty aluminum cans can all be placed in the same recycling receptacle.

Learn about our Tree Maintenance

The Park District of Oak Park is committed to the highest possible level of management for all natural resources represented in our parks. The Park District maintains a tree inventory identifying the age, condition and location of all trees throughout the parks system using GIS software. Read more about the maintenance of our trees.

Tree Inventory Fact Sheet
Tree Removal Fact Sheet

Tree Inoculations

Inoculating trees is the most effective tool for combating Dutch Elm disease, which is decimating our Elm tree population. The Park District is investing in our Heritage Elms by inoculating 24 mature, healthy, American Elms per the recommended treatment cycle.  The decision was made to treat these trees to try and preserve these living treasures throughout the park system.

Heritage Oak Propagation Program

 The Park District partnered with the West Suburban Openlands Treekeepers and the Morton Arboretum to save hundreds of 200- to 300- year old oak trees as part of the Heritage Oak Propagation Program. Grown from acorns back in 2008, a total of 51 of these living treasures were planted this spring in Scoville, Mills, Taylor and Field Parks.  The nurturing and planting of these trees enhances biodiversity and is part of the District’s broader strategy to use natives whenever possible to best support our environment.

Water Conservation

 In response to ever rising water costs, a desire to conserve water and the recognition of the energy consumed pumping and treating water from Lake Michigan, the Park District has evaluated and selected a number of sites for the installation of “Cisterns”.  This underground reservoir will allow the District to capture water from splash pads and water features to use for irrigation.  A 400-gallon cistern is being installed at the soon-to-open Elsie Jacobsen Discovery Garden and are also planned at Longfellow and Field Parks.

Greening Advisory Committee (GAC)

The Greening Advisory Committee acts as a liaison between the Park District and the community, helping implement the Park District’s Environmental Policy, assisting the Park Board in identifying and exploring sustainability issues and environmental initiatives, helping determine annual projects, and maintaining the Green Team, the Park District’s park stewardship program. For more information on the GAC, visit our Citizens Committee page.

Join the Green Team Green_Team_Image

Join the Park District of Oak Park to help with the greening of our parks. We're looking for community volunteers who would like to help care for a local park under the guidance of a park steward. Duties may include planting, plant care, tree monitoring, educational activities, special events or general maintenance. Interested Steward candidates should have a working knowledge of or interest in horticultural practices which might include gardening, prairie restoration and perennial plant and tree care. Visit our Volunteer Opportunities page to learn how to get involved.

Carry In/Carry Out Program (Carry In/Carry Out Program Fact Sheet)

The Park District’s Greening Advisory Committee initiated a Carry In/Carry Out program with the Oak Park Youth Baseball/Softball Association and the Oak Park American Youth Soccer Organization to reduce trash, keep our parks cleaner, and increase environmental awareness and stewardship. This program has now been expanded to all park patrons. We simply ask our park users to take out whatever trash they bring into the park. Please do your part to keep our parks clean.

Lindberg Park Trial Gardens Native Plant Restoration

The diverse species mix originally planted at Lindberg Park in 2000 has largely been lost due to the invasion of aggressive plant species such as Canada thistle, tall goldenrod and New England aster. The Park District's Greening Advisory Committee worked with the Park District to oversee plans to restore the plantings in the Trial Gardens to recreate the desired plant diversity. The first phase of plantings were completed in June 2012. Successive phasing continues yearly as well as specialized, ongoing maintenance of this unique area. For more information about the Lindberg Park Trial Gardens, e-mail Chris Lindgren or call (708) 725-2050.

Additional Park District of Oak Park Green Efforts

  • The Park District implemented an online job application system to eliminate paper applications.
  • The Park District purchased two alternative fuel vehicles.
  • Bio-diverse areas in the parks were included during the development of park site plans.
  • The Park District, along with the Park District's volunteer citizen Greening Advisory Committee, support the PlanItGreen Environmental Sustainability Plan for Oak Park and River Forest.
  • The Park Board adopted a revised procurement policy which addresses the purchase of environmentally preferable products and services.
  • Three Park District employees passed the exam to become Certified Arborists.
  • At the 2015 Frank Lloyd Wright Races, the Park District had a 90% diversion rate for all waste.  This is the largest Park District special event enjoyed by over 3,000 runners, walkers, volunteers and spectators.
  • Canvas tote bags, made of recycled materials, were distributed to all Park District staff to encourage the use of reusable bags when shopping.
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