The mighty oak has been part of legends and fables. It is used as a symbol of strength, protection and stability. It has represented Zeus in Greek mythology.
During October, the fabled oak tree is being celebrated. The Chicago Tree Region Initiative and its supporters are marking October as Oaktober – Oak Awareness Month.
Irons Oaks Environmental Learning Center, part of the Homewood-Flossmoor Park District, has planned special events for Saturday, Oct. 5, to mark the grove of oaks. Between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., visitors will get a chance to enjoy oak experiences, both on the ground with presentations and crafts, and high up in the trees reaching the climbing tower for a view from high above.
Story teller and naturalist David Stokes presents “Trees & Animals That Need Them” at 11:15 a.m., 12:15 p.m. and 1:15 p.m. Families can also enjoy story time presented by the Flossmoor Library staff.
From noon to 1 p.m., hot dog lunches will be served, while supplies last, and at 1:30 p.m. it’s time for making and enjoying S’mores.
Throughout the Oaktober celebration, visitors can walk the ground of Irons Oaks, make tree crafts, try the climbing wall, and help with restoration/tree planting activities.
The day’s events are sponsored by the Homewood-Flossmoor Park District, Olympia Fields Park District, Irons Oaks Foundation, Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, Live Generously and Meijer.
There are more than 90 varieties of oaks, but only select varieties thrive in our area, primarily black oak, bur oak, chinkapin oak, northern pin oak, northern red oak, pin oak, scarlet oak, shingle oak and white oak, according to the Morton Arboretum.
The oak was designated America’s national tree in 2004.
“Oaks are one of the biggest supporters for pollinators,” said Cheryl Vargo, manager of Irons Oaks. “They support over 400 species of pollinator insects. They’re not just good for beautiful shade and wood. There’s a lot more involved to them,” she said.
Interested in helping maintain trees in the H-F community?
At Irons Oaks, volunteers can work to eliminate invasive species, help with reforestation and clean brush.
Vargo has been able to get funding through challenge grants to help with these efforts. Right now, Irons Oaks needs 70 hours of volunteer time to get a $4,000 planting grant. And, the Irons Oaks Foundation is $1,100 short in its 3-to-1 match for a challenge grant. Both have Oct. 31 deadlines.
Groups and individuals willing to lend support can contact Vargo at 708-481-2330.
In Homewood, volunteers can help plant trees with the Public Works crew on Oct. 26. Bryon Doerr, landscape and maintenance supervisor, said the village got a grant for trees and will be planting in the area of Linden and Burr Oak Avenues.
Volunteers can contact Public Works at 708-206-3470 for more information.