City of Evanston Environmental Services Bureau Chief, Paul D’Agostino, presented a bur oak sapling (in pot at far right) from a Washington Illinois tree with history linking it to Abraham Lincoln.                                                        Photos by Mary Mumbrue

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Libby Hill took time from her task of watering trees in the dry air of Oct. 16 to help welcome eight new trees to the Clark Street Bird Sanctuary. A member of the Evanston North Shore Bird Club, whose members are stewards of the bird sanctuary, Ms. Hill handed off the hose to colleague Jim La Rochelle and took visitors to where City crews were planting jack pine and sweet fern. 

Members of Rotary’s Green Committee, who work at Rotary International headquarters on Sherman Avenue, raised more than $1,200 to purchase these trees – four bur oaks and four jack pines – which were chosen to fit the Evanston climate and the sandy soil near the beach. This year Rotary International President Ian Riseley challenged every Rotary club around the world to plant trees to combat environmental degradation, asking that a tree be planted either for or on behalf of each Rotarian around the globe – 1.2 million trees.

The two-acre bird sanctuary, between Clark Street Beach and the walking path, has been nurtured by the Bird Club since it began with a nearly $175,000 repayment by Northwestern University to the City to replace the 70 trees they destroyed when putting in the road leading to the University’s visitor center.

Lauren Marques-Viso, chair of Rotary’s Green Committee, said, “Rotarians were truly inspired by the challenge to plant 1.2 million trees.”

Mr. Riseley said, “It’s wonderful for Rotary to be seen supporting Evanston. Rotary supports the environment. This is the only planet we’ve got.”

Mayor Steve Hagerty said, “Everyone is so proud that Rotary is in Evanston. In addition to eradicating polio, we’re about to plant 1.2 million trees.”

Gerald Ginsburg, President of the Evanston/North Shore Bird Club, thanked Rotary on behalf of the club. He said, “The Evanston North Shore Bird Club has deep roots in Evanston – going back to 1919,” The club has a habitat and a fiscal stewardship. “Money does not grow on trees – it takes money to grow trees.”

Ms. Hill spoke of the collaboration between the Bird Club and the City. “The sanctuary would not have come about without City staff, especially Paul D’Agostino.”

Mr. D’Agostino, the City’s Environmental Services Bureau Chief, acknowledged not only the eight trees donated by Rotary International but also 20 other trees donated and planted elsewhere in the City by local Rotary clubs. He then offered a contribution of his own: a bur oak sapling with historical roots. It was given to him two years ago by State Urban Forester Reinee Hildebrandt, because of his volunteer work in Washington, Ill. After a tornado struck the town, he helped determine the safety of the remaining trees. Dr. Hildebrandt rescued several seedlings from a state-run nursery and gave one to each of these volunteers.

“The tree came from a tree still standing in Washington, owned by a family friend of Abraham Lincoln. In the current owner’s opinion, Abraham Lincoln enjoyed the shade of that tree.”

Seventh Ward Alderman Eleanor Revelle, who has been actively promoting sustainability for more than a decade, attended the tree-planting ceremony. “I think this initiative of 1.2 million trees is going to inspire others to plant trees. Trees provide an important habitat. They are key to our efforts to fight climate change,” she told the RoundTable.

Ms. Hill also said, “This is a sanctuary for birds, but we’ve learned from our volunteers that this is a sanctuary for people, too.”

Mary Gavin

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...