Arboretum to be focal point of future park in Hawthorn Woods
The next public park in Hawthorn Woods won't fit the traditional definition of a recreational facility.
Instead, Meadowlark Arbor Park, to be built next spring, is intended as an outdoor classroom with an educational walk built around a small arboretum.
That last feature is possible through a $15,000 grant the village received from the U.S. Forest Service via the Morton Arboretum's Community Trees Program, which administers the funding.
The grant will allow the village to introduce 25 species of trees intended as a feature of the 3.5-acre park on Schwerman Road at Meadowlark Drive west of Gilmer Road.
"We'll be identifying the trees on an educational tree walk," said Pam Newton, the village's chief operating officer.
"It's not a traditional playground -- it's a series of pods kids walk to on trails and learn the history of Hawthorn Woods," she said.
The area is near the private Hawthorn Woods Country Club subdivision, which has a playground for members.
"We saw this as a need for the general public," Newton said.
The process has taken about three years, as the Openlands preservation organization purchased the property and held it until the village could repay the $110,000 cost.
Meanwhile, a village grants team had identified the Community Trees Program as something to pursue. The annual program provides grants to public agencies to develop a tree ordinance or tree management plan, obtain a tree inventory, or plant trees.
This year, there was $173,000 available to distribute, according to Beth Corrigan, community trees program specialist at the Morton Arboretum.
"We got 39 applications from across the state at a total ask of $434,000," she said. Reviewers ranked the projects to include eight north of Interstate 80 and eight south.
One of the options allows applicants to apply for one of four levels of official recognition as an arboretum by the global ArbNet Arboretum Accreditation Program, established by Morton in 2011.
"Hawthorn Woods said, 'If we're going to take this park property and improve it, how are we going to attract more people?'" Corrigan said.
"It beefed up their proposal and the forest service smiles on this public engagement. It's a wonderful benefit for the community," she said.
Newton said the plan is to create an educational outdoor tree walk and arbor park to serve as a living classroom.
"We're building this park around the arbor feature," she said. "When we think of a park, we think of enhancing the natural world that families will like to come back and visit."
In Lake County, Deer Park also received $15,000 for tree planting. Last fall, the Vernon Hills Park District became the first to receive official ArbNet designation for its arboretum at Century Park.