To the editor,
Two precincts in Hyde Park and one in South Shore recently voted to support an advisory referendum to “stop cutting down trees in Jackson Park and preserve trees in South Shore Cultural Center Park.”
I wonder if voters who voted to save trees are aware that the Chicago Park District recently planted several dozen cherry trees to complement those now gracing the southwest bank of the Columbia’s Basin south of the Museum of Science and Industry. How many Hyde Parkers know that more than 100 tiny bur oak saplings have been planted by Wooded Island steward Jerry Levy and park volunteers? The saplings, now safely encased in wire cages, will soon add to the original savanna — the mixed woodland and grassy area interspersed with gaps that let the sunshine in — of the area.
Much of the concern about the loss of trees has to do with the construction of the Obama Presidential Center. Admittedly, a significant number of mature trees have been removed from previously verdant landscape. Sooner that we might predict, those trees will be replaced by carefully selected native trees.
Some folks suggested that a better siting for the center would be in Washington Park on the east side of King Drive between 51st and 55th streets. Not many people know that special area — the location of the only arboretum in the city of Chicago. Today’s arboretum was yesterday’s wilderness. Pre-settlement trees, some of which are more than 200 years old, have led a serene existence there from the time when bison, deer and wolves were the most common residents. There would have been foxes and voles, opossums and moles with no human encroachment at all for at least another 50 years. If any place in the city should remain sacrosanct, it is here, close to street traffic and elevated train tracks, but very much a part of nature.
One should never underestimate the talents of the highly trained Chicago Park District staff. They use the very best forestry techniques to remove trees damaged by disease and storms with minimal damage to surrounding areas. The removed trees are replaced with healthy, native species that will thrive in an urban environment,
Yes, changes are taking place in Jackson Park. Through its the more than 170 years of its existence, the Park has been remarkably resilient. Fine new trees will grow up, including the bur oak saplings planted by dedicated folks who take time off from work because of their love of nature.
For those of you who have issues about tree management in Jackson Park, I strongly urge that you have a discussion with the beavers. They have engaged in tree management for countless generations.
Frances S. Vandervoort
Jackson Park Advisory Council