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Local

St. Charles Park District program to highlight importance of witness trees for restoration efforts

Witness tree
Witness tree

ST. CHARLES – The St. Charles Park District is sponsoring a presentation about the importance of four specific oak trees in the Hickory Knolls natural area, known as witness trees, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. April 28 at Hickory Knolls. According to a news release from the park district, those trees tell the story of the landscape from centuries ago and give hope for the future of restoring oak woodlands.

Chris Gingrich, St. Charles Park District assistant superintendent of outdoor education, will present the history of the federal land survey, and then lead the group on a 15-minute hike to see the witness trees up close.

“The law ordering the survey of western lands required land surveyors to make notes of the trees along the survey lines, including the size and species, as well as other flora and fauna. This was intended to help settlers when they were buying property,” Gingrich said in the news release.

Today, the survey is used as a guide to help in restoration efforts of oak woodlands that have significantly diminished from farming and development over the years.

Prior to settlement there were an estimated 1 million acres of oak ecosystems in the Chicago region, and by 2010, only 173,000 acres were remaining, according to Gingrich.

“The land survey gives ecologists an idea of what the area looked like prior to settlement and therefore, it aids in recreating an ecosystem that will support oaks,” Gingrich said the release, adding that oak trees support 500 species of insects, and in turn, those insects provide food for other wildlife. “There is a lot of life that use and depend on an oak tree for nesting, grazing, shelter and food.”

For more information, call Gingrich at 630-513-4367. The fee for the program for ages 16 and older is $10 for residents and $15 for nonresidents. Register at www.stcparks.org.

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