Officials gathered at the Canadian National rail line near 17811 Harwood Ave. in Homewood Tuesday to announce the completion of a new landscaping project.
“This symbolized and epitomizes our relationship with CN. This town was founded on the railroad,” Mayor Richard Hofeld said. “This is an indication of the effort being made community-wide.”
The beautification of a 7,800 square foot area near the tracks was made possible by a $25,000 matching grant from CN Railway through the nonprofit America in Bloom. The CN EcoConnexions From the Ground Up program aims to improve the landscaping and greenery near CN rail lines.
Plants were selected to attract pollinators, birds and butterflies, including monarchs. Trees and shrubs were picked because they are high flowering, adapt well to the area and won’t grow to the height of the power lines above, Homewood Public Works Landscape Supervisor Bryan Doerr said.
“These have only been in for about four weeks and they’re already established. I don’t even have one that’s died. Everything’s taken off,” Doerr said. “I put in high numbers (of plants) so that if anything did falter, we wouldn’t notice it was gone and everything would fill it back in.”
In addition to aesthetics, the program’s goals include promoting clean air and water, increasing property values, reducing erosion and stormwater runoff, creating wildlife habitat and lessening energy demands.
“CN really takes a lot of pride in being a sustainable business and a good neighbor. You’re seeing the culmination of both of those values here today,” CN Manager of State and Local Government Affairs Larry Lloyd said. “It’s not all about investing in steel. It’s also about investing in greenery.”
Lloyd said the company has increased the tonnage it hauls by about 30 percent while decreasing carbon emissions by a third. CN has planted over 20,000 trees in Illinois and over two million in North America, he said.
The Homewood Science Center will host tutorials about the plants and their importance. HSC will also help public works maintain the site and take inventory of insects that make the site home.
“We know that plants are important as economic drivers. We see that plan when they decorate downtown, that brings in tourism. That brings in shoppers. That brings in a tax base,” America in Bloom board member Marvin Miller said in a statement. “Plants interact with people in ways that other things just don’t. We have a lot of research that talks about the psychological and sociological benefit of plants.”