KENWOOD — An army of volunteers will descend on the south lakefront Saturday to plant a forest of 50,000 trees.
The Chicago Park District has rounded up 500 volunteers and is looking for 300 more to plant trees from 9 a.m. to noon between 39th Street and 47th Street.
“The theory behind all this and the plan is to replace the oak savannah that was originally here,” said George Davis, the park steward of the Burnham Park Nature Sanctuary at 47th Street. “Along the lakefront there were forests similar to up near Zion’s Illinois Beach State Park.”
Volunteers will meet at the parking lot at East Hayes Drive and South Lake Shore Drive and shuttles will be available to shuttle people down to 20 acres of land between Lake Shore Drive and the Canadian National Railroad tracks.
On Monday, crews finished drilling holes for the two-year-old saplings of oak, maples, crab apples and other trees that will provide food for birds migrating along the Lake Michigan coast.
“The plants that were there did a really poor job of providing food,” Davis said.
Last May, the Park District began chopping down 40 acres of trees along South Lake Shore Drive to remove invasive species and plants that did little to support the large population of birds that travel along the shoreline.
Nearly 40-foot tall white poplars were the last to come down in recent weeks and the only remaining trees are those that will be the elders to the new whips being planted.
According to the Park District, the plan is to continue the planting through the fall and bring in more mature saplings to plant about a dozen groves and add shrubs and other ground cover plants. The Park District plans to plant 80,000 trees by the end of the year along the south lakefront.
“It will be a providing a decent habitat by the fall, but it will be a different habitat that will be more of a grassland until the trees grow up,” Davis said.
Once the project is complete, the south lakefront from McCormick Place to the Burnham Nature Sanctuary at 47th Street will be the largest continuous nature area in the city, according to Jessica Maxey-Faulkner, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Park District.
The day of planting will end with a free concert for volunteers.
To sign up to volunteer, visit the park district website for the project.
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