Kuechmann Kove debuts as a 'natural playscape' in Lake Zurich

  • Mary Kozub, left, a board member of the Ancient Oaks Foundation, speaks with visitors Victoria Pepe, center, and her daughter, Veronica, Friday at Kuechmann Arboretum in Lake Zurich.

    Mary Kozub, left, a board member of the Ancient Oaks Foundation, speaks with visitors Victoria Pepe, center, and her daughter, Veronica, Friday at Kuechmann Arboretum in Lake Zurich. Mick Zawislak | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 8/20/2021 5:58 PM

A ceremonial ribbon-cutting Saturday will mark the transformation of a hidden park in Lake Zurich into a natural attraction to draw kids and adults outside.

"We finally have everything in place," said Judi Thode, president of the Ancient Oaks Foundation. "Come and play kids -- it's official."

 

At 10 a.m. Ancient Oaks is hosting the grand opening of Kuechmann Kove, a "natural playscape" within a larger park area that was rebranded by the village as Kuechmann Arboretum.

"We want people here," added Mary Kozub, a foundation board member, who with Thode was tending to last-minute details.

A number of visitors stopped during a brief period Friday morning. An older couple, a mother and daughter, two neighbors and a father and 2-year old son who live nearby were among those who have become familiar with what has evolved into an 8-acre natural respite at 626 N. Old Rand Road.

"It's working. People are out," Kozub said.

That hasn't been the case for much of the park's 31-year history. A 2011 village survey showed only about 3% of village residents used the park which is set back from Old Rand Road accessed by a narrow road between private properties.

Tree circles, known as wood cookies, are natural toys for kids at Kuechmann Kove in Lake Zurich.
Tree circles, known as wood cookies, are natural toys for kids at Kuechmann Kove in Lake Zurich. - Mick Zawislak | Staff Photographer
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Ancient Oaks has been working on the project since 2015. In 2019, the village announced an initiative to preserve old growth oaks, remove invasive species and install plants that attract pollinators.

The arboretum has 25 species of trees -- three dozen of which are estimated to be more than 150 years old -- and has been certified by ArbNet, an international program of accreditation for public gardens and arboreta.

Coordinated by Ancient Oaks, volunteers have spent hundreds of hours removing invasive buckthorn and huckleberry, rehabilitating the trail and planting pollinators.

Eagle Scouts have done projects, the village has helped with heavy lifting and others organizations have assisted.

In April, the Kuechmann project received the Governor's Hometown Award, in recognition of improving Lake Zurich's quality of life.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"It really is a community effort," Thode said.

The area has remained open for public use during the restoration as Ancient Oaks hosts a variety of nature-related programs.

Saturday's gathering is a ceremonial nod to the Kove, a professionally designed area for kids preschool age and up.

Judi Thode, president of the Ancient Oaks Foundation, explains the background of Kuechmann Arboretum in Lake Zurich.
Judi Thode, president of the Ancient Oaks Foundation, explains the background of Kuechmann Arboretum in Lake Zurich. - Mick Zawislak | Staff Photographer

Dead trees from the site have been sliced into "wood cookies" that can be stacked, rolled or whatever strikes a kid's fancy.

"We really emphasize the instructional play aspect of it -- use your imagination," said Thode.

A small wooden structure called a " discovery lab" will be used for displays. The centerpiece is a 6-foot long, resin/concrete log tunnel.

The area has been a public park for 31 years and is named for former Mayor Anton Kuechmann, who served from 1953-1957. He was a founding father of the village and supporter of environmental causes.

"The village is committed to enriching this conservation arboretum as a valuable natural resource for the Lake Zurich community for generations to follow," said Kyle Kordell, assistant to the village manager.

"We are renewing and strengthening relationships with community volunteers and the payoff in this Lake Zurich gem has been strong," he added.

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