Leaving a living legacy in our parks

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My dad taught me long ago that we do not plant trees for ourselves; we plant them for our grandchildren. I take those words to heart, and have tried to live by them throughout my life.

At Three Rivers Park District, we take seriously our role as stewards of the region’s natural resources, and this commitment is particularly evident in our seven park reserves. In each of our park reserves — Baker, Carver, Crow-Hassan, Elm Creek, Hyland Lake, Lake Rebecca and Murphy-Hanrehan — we are committed to restoring and maintaining a minimum of 80 percent of the land in its natural state. At a park like Crow-Hassan, that means restoring native prairie. At parks like Carver and Lake Rebecca, that means reforestation.

To help achieve this mission, our Forestry staff grows our own plant stock from locally-sourced seeds at our nursery in Crow-Hassan Park Reserve. Each year, Three Rivers plants more than 62,000 native trees and shrubs in our parks, helping to restore the Big Woods and oak savannas that once covered our region.

Forestry management is not simply planting trees and letting them grow. Careful, active and continuous management is needed to control and prevent damage by disease and invasive insects. Oak wilt remains a problem that threatens to devastate the mature oak trees we all admire, and there is an even more looming menace on the horizon.

Emerald ash borer has not yet been found in our parks, but unfortunately, it is only a matter of time. In response, our staff are proactively removing and replacing about 200 ash trees each year in some of the most highly-used places in our parks, like campgrounds and picnic areas. This allows us to replant other tree species now, which will lessen the immediate impacts on our parks once the ash borers inevitably arrive.

We can’t do it alone. I especially want to recognize the generosity of the countless donors to our Forests Forever program. Contributions to Forests Forever have made it possible for Three Rivers to plant thousands of additional trees in our parks, and that is a great way to leave a living legacy for generations to come.

The year Dad passed away, my children joined me on Arbor Day to each plant a tree in his memory. This past year, I planted another tree in a public park for my first grandchild. Each month, we take a picture as they both grow. I sincerely hope you might consider joining me in leaving a similar legacy for your own children and grandchildren.

If you’d like to learn more about our Forests Forever program, please visit this link: http://www.threeriversparks.org/about/donations/forests-forever.aspx. Information on Three Rivers’ natural resources management efforts is available at: http://www.threeriversparks.org/natural-resources.aspx

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John Gunyou
Three Rivers Parks Board Chair