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posted: 4/23/2014 9:54 AM

Seedling giveaway, cleanups kick off Elgin area tradition

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Submitted by Izaak Walton League

The Izaak Walton League and Elgin Green Groups are bringing back a longtime tradition of the Izaak Walton League.

The Ikes, as they call themselves, gave away seedlings to all fifth-graders in Elgin Area School District U-46 for more than 25 years.

Tom Stewart, an Ike member and former Tyler Creek Forest Preserve ranger, remembers wrapping the seedlings, including pine trees and deciduous trees, at the preserve's shelter. Members would then deliver the seedlings to each elementary building.

To celebrate Arbor Day and Earth Day, the fifth-grade students were each given a sapling to take home and plant. Some are still in evidence in student's yards and on the grounds of several elementary schools.

With the population of U-46 increasing over the years, and costs going up, the tradition was put on hold for a while.

This year, after consultation with John Ziegler, current Ikes' president, and Tom Stewart, it was decided to restart the tradition on a smaller scale with about 350 seedlings for just the students at Ellis Middle School.

In addition, 44 tree identification guides will be distributed to all U-46 seventh-grade science teachers for classroom use.

The Ellis science club, the Science Nerds, and teacher coordinator Holly Yee have been working with the Ikes on the spring and fall cleanup days of Willow Creek that flows near both Ellis and the Izaak Walton Lodge.

The next cleanup day is scheduled for Saturday, May 10 from 9 a.m. to noon. The club's energy and excitement of pulling things -- old tires, a marble tabletop, and even a toilet -- was contagious. The students went right into the stream while many adult Ike members did more bank cleanup.

The public is invited to participate in the cleanup. Just report to the Lodge at 899 Jay St., Elgin at 9 a.m.

The city of Elgin has put up a new "No Trash" sign by the roadway adjacent to the cleanup area near Ellis Middle School. The Science Nerds are getting ready to build a walkway behind Ellis Middle School and, hopefully, some of the seedlings will go there.

With past Arbor Day celebrations, the Izaak Walton League helped Elgin become a Tree City. Now, volunteers from the Ikes and Elgin Green Groups will help Ellis Middle School students continue this rich tradition.

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