Editorial: In Lake Zurich, they spoke for the trees

  • Volunteers led the effort to restore an old-growth oak woodland and rename Lake Zurich's Kuechmann Arboretum, which was dedicated Wednesday.

      Volunteers led the effort to restore an old-growth oak woodland and rename Lake Zurich's Kuechmann Arboretum, which was dedicated Wednesday. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Updated 3/21/2019 9:16 AM

Over decades of suburban growth, we've seen plenty of centuries-old oak groves bulldozed for development. It fills us with regret, but most of us do nothing to sway those land-use choices and save the trees.

In Lake Zurich, some people did stand up for the trees, and the result is a renewed Kuechmann Park. Dedicated on Wednesday, the park's new name -- Kuechmann Arboretum -- honors the hundred or more oaks, maples and box elders on the site.


The oldest tree is 275 years old, having sprouted when Native Americans thrived and traveled on trails that became some of our most-used suburban routes today. Fifty-four of the trees are more than 100 years old, and 36 are more than 150 years old.

It's a lovely site. Yet, a village survey showed only 3 percent of Lake Zurich's residents had been to the eight-acre park, accessed by a narrow driveway between houses on North Old Rand Road.

Given that obscurity, the village considered selling the park to a housing developer in 2014 and to Ela Township for playing fields in 2015. It turns out even old oaks need good P.R.

The rebranding, plus upgrades like an ADA-accessible walking path, play structures for children and habitats for butterflies, birds and bats, will give it more stature, volunteers hope.

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Their efforts promise to help not only this prized park, but other environmentally sensitive areas of Lake Zurich.

Kuechmann Park's initial defenders were its immediate neighbors. They joined forces with another group, the Oak Ridge Marsh Conservation Group, which had restored a nearby oak woodland.

A few years ago, members of both interest groups formed the Ancient Oaks Foundation, with a goal of expanding support and advocacy for woodlands in Lake Zurich.

The efforts stand to raise Lake Zurich's profile (and property values) in a region that has shown its commitment to open land via the Lake County Forest Preserve District, second in size only to the Cook County Forest Preserve District in Illinois.

Says the Lorax, who speaks for the trees in the eponymous Dr. Seuss book, "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."

We're grateful to the backers of Kuechmann Arboretum for not only caring, but acting. It's hard to clear buckthorn, build boardwalks, write grant applications and recruit volunteers. Their efforts are a model for others in the suburbs who want to support open space and native habitats.

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