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Rhonda J. Ferree

Rhonda J. Ferree
Former Extension Educator, Horticulture

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Rhonda Ferree's ILRiverHort

Rhonda Ferree's Horticulture Blog
Havana tree planting 2015
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Tree Plantings at Havana's Riverfront Park Provide Many Benefits

On Saturday, May 9, 2015, fifteen volunteers spent the morning planting and mulching fifty trees in Havana's Riverfront Park. Volunteers included students from Havana, Peoria Heights, and Tremont, as well as staff and volunteers from University of Illinois Extension. Debbie Fluegel from Trees Forever coordinated the planting.

Trees Forever, a Midwest non-profit organization, the City of Havana, Havana Park District, and University of Illinois Extension partnered together on this planting project. They received a riparian buffer restoration grant from the Alliance for Community Trees and Zig Zag Zoom Tree Story. Tree Story is a mobile game that you play and grow virtual trees. Once enough virtual trees have been planted, the game's partners plant REAL trees in parks, forests, or urban groves.

The objective of the grant is to restore native bottomland forest (riparian buffer) along rivers and streams. Planting trees along rivers and streams is vital to improving water quality and the health of our watersheds. Forested riparian buffers reduce the speed and erosive power of floodwater and block debris from entering both rural and urban lands. The tree roots hold the stream banks and keep the soil in place, reducing erosion. In addition, riparian buffers slow and absorb surface runoff and prevent excess nutrients, pesticides, and other contaminants from entering the river.

The seven species of trees that were planted in Riverfront Park are native bottomland species. They include cottonwood, swamp white oak, swamp chestnut oak, river birch, basswood, pin oak, and sycamore. All the trees are large, fast growing trees that grow over 50 feet tall at a rate of one to two feet per year.

These native trees are able to withstand weather extremes such as flooding. Most of the trees were planted in a random pattern to restore the riparian buffer around the nature center. A few trees were planted at the south end of the park to replace recent tree losses.

In addition to stabilizing soil during extreme weather events, riparian buffer tree plantings have many other benefits. They provide habitat diversity and increase food for songbirds and other wildlife, including pollinators. The trees will also provide energy efficiency cost savings to the Havana Park District and the citizens of Havana. The trees will shade the nature center in the summer, decreasing the costs of cooling the building. In the winter, the trees will help break up and redistribute the winter winds, saving on heating costs. Energy savings could be as much as 10-20% per year.

Trees have many other benefits including cleaning the air and water, but mostly trees add beauty to any setting. A vibrant, beautiful tree benefits not only everyone in the present, but also enhances the environment of future generations for years to come.

  • Rhonda Ferree, University of Illinois Extension educator, horticulture, (309)543-3308(309)543-3308,
  • Debbie Fluegel, Trees Forever field coordinator & program manager, (309)613-0095(309)613-0095,

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