LINCOLN SQUARE — Chicagoans interested in learning more about caring for the city’s trees can sign up for Openlands fall TreeKeepers certification course.
“Trees have a number of benefits besides looking nice, they lower temperature on streets and help absorb water that builds up from heavy rainfalls,” Williams said. “And part of the certification is learning how to identify pests and diseases early and how to treat the tree when it’s happening.”
Founded in 1963, the nonprofit focuses on protecting the natural and open spaces of northeastern Illinois and the surrounding region to ensure cleaner air and water, protect natural habitats and wildlife. TreeKeepers have helped plant nearly 5,000 trees across the Chicago region since 2013.
“The TreeKeepers program was started 27 years ago and since that time we’ve trained over 2,000 volunteers to keep trees healthy in the region,” said Patrick Williams, a spokesperson for Openlands.
To become a certified TreeKeeper, participants must go to all eight classes, pass a written and practical exams and pledge to complete 25 volunteer hours within a year of graduation.
“Once you’re certified as a keeper you can adopt a set of public trees in a parkway or a park in Chicago and be responsible for them,” Williams said. “We have a longstanding partnership with the park district and city’s tree crews to do this.”
After certification, participants can also host volunteer workdays and attend advanced trainings.
“We’ve had tree keepers in the past who are just nature enthusiasts who love being outside and doing what they can to support the environment. And some people who are very driven with maintaining their neighborhoods,” he said. “It also provides an outlet for a healthier lifestyle because pruning and planting trees in the parks is quite a workout.”
The fall TreeKeepers course will begin Sept. 16 and run through Oct. 11 on Sundays, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and on Thursdays, from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. All classes will be held at the Welles Park Field House, 2333 W. Sunnyside Ave.
The course costs $128, with a limited number of scholarships available. Each participant receives a TreeKeepers Program Manual, safety gloves, and upon graduation, a TreeKeepers certificate, badge, and t-shirt.
To enroll in the fall course visit Openlands.org/treekeepers before the Sept. 15 deadline.
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