Local students planted 25 new trees at Illiniwek Forest Preserve, a facility of the Rock Island County Forest Preserve District, last Saturday as part of a pilot tree planting partnership with the Rock Island County Soil and Water Conservation District.

Focused on conservation, education and action, a total of 30 counties are participating in the state-wide program funded by the Illinois Forestry Development Council, University of Illinois Extension 4-H, Association of Illinois Soil and Water Conservation Districts and the Rock Island County Soil and Water Conversation District.

(contributed photo)

“With community at the heart of this initiative, it was an easy decision for our board to select Illiniwek Forest Preserve as the inaugural planting site,” said Dawn Temple, administrator, Rock Island County Soil and Water Conservation District. “The true power in this project comes down to the education, and the park’s accessibility and visibility to the public gives us an opportunity to show more people why these native trees are so important to our region.”

The 2022 tree planting initiative is designed to help increase tree diversity and wildlife benefit in what was previously just a grassed area. A generous donation of mulch from Xylem aided local extension 4-H students, ranging in age from 8 to 15, in the planting of 10 Jackiana Oak trees, five Bur Oak trees, five Black Oak trees and five Red Oak trees.

(contributed photo)

In line with the existing restoration projects already in motion at Illiniwek Forest Preserve, this initiative supports a five-year effort to replace trees lost to insect infestation, storm damage and other hazardous situations. To date, over 200 bare root trees have been donated by Living Lands & Waters, with this weekend’s event representing the completion of the tree planting portion of the project.

“This collaboration is really a celebration of what we can do together to improve the quality of life for every living thing that calls this area home,” said Mike Petersen, Illiniwek Forest Preserve Park Ranger. “Oak is a keystone tree species in our Illinois Forests, providing everything from food and shelter to entire ecosystems. More trees will mean more biological variety and healthier water, soil and air – it’s literally life-changing.”

In an effort to invite the community to play an active role in the initiative going forward, families and visitors of the park can expect to see signage at the east end of the campground at Illiniwek Forest Preserve explaining the value of native oak trees to Illinois forests and tips on oak tree identification for a more interactive experience.

About the Rock Island County Forest Preserve District

The mission of the Rock Island County Forest Preserve District is to maintain and acquire lands and facilities in Rock Island County with the intent to restore, conserve and protect the waters, forests and prairies they contain and the goal to create educational and recreational opportunities for the residents of Rock Island County and beyond.
The Rock Island County Forest Preserve District is governed by the Forest Preserve Commission. Today, the Rock Island County Forest Preserve Commission governs six forest preserve areas totaling 2,529 acres. They include Loud Thunder Forest Preserve, Illiniwek Forest Preserve, Niabi Zoo, Indian Bluff Golf Course and Forest Preserve, Dorrance Park and Martin Conservation Area.

For more information about the Rock Island County Forest Preserve District, visit here.

About Rock Island County Soil and Water Conservation District

The Rock Island County Soil and Water Conservation District is a local unit of government established on February 10, 1942. It is governed by a five-person board of directors and elected by landowners and land occupants within the District. The Board of Directors, themselves landowners or land occupants in Rock Island County, meet regularly to administer a program of work that fits the needs and natural resources concerns in the county, including workshops, presentations, land and site evaluations and community-wide training. The group is one of 98 Soil and Water Conservation Districts in the state of Illinois. For more information, visit here.