The email arrived in September from resident Karalyn Falatovich, who was already thinkin’ spring and hoping to proactively connect with Fox Valley Park District staff and collab on an early ’24 planting project.

Or, more specifically in terms of staff, “someone who could nerd out with me about trees.”

A first-time homeowner in the Lakewood Valley subdivision on Aurora’s far southeast side, Karalyn (pictured) desired to spruce-up nearby Lakewood Park, and was willing to get her hands dirty. A Google search led her to Chris Kuehn, the FVPD’s manager of arboriculture, lake management and integrated pest management.

“I said, ‘I’m a neighbor who’s reaching out wanting to plant trees – and I’m willing to pitch in and make a contribution,” says Karalyn, explaining the spirit of the September email. “’Can we work together?’”

On Saturday morning, the culmination of Earth Week, Kuehn and his team will plant nine American Red Maples – purchased by Karalyn – along the portion of the pedestrian path that runs parallel to Hoffman Blvd.

“It’s completely awesome,” says Kuehn, who’s been with FVPD for 28 years. “Most of our resident requests involve resolving issues, so it’s refreshing and welcome when someone reaches out and says, ‘I want to help.’

“Lakewood is a great location – it’s a big, beautiful park that needs trees.”

In addition to Karalyn’s donated nine Red Maples, Kuehn and his team will match the contribution by planting nine young trees around Lakewood Park’s playground area. FVPD will add six Red Pointe Maples, one American Linden, one Yellowwood, and one White Oak – the state tree of Illinois, which Kuehn always adds as a personal touch during batch plantings.

Earth Week around the FVPD

Kuehn and his team set a goal for 200 plantings around the District this year – an attainable number considering the bounty of strong trees ready to age out of FVPD nurseries and Greenhouse.

This week, 10 maples took root around Blackberry Farm’s Picnic Area 3 – a rentable space and popular chill zone during the Live & Uncorked summer concert series. And students in Blackberry’s Creative Play Preschool program celebrated with a maple planting alongside the Performance Pavilion on Friday morning, Arbor Day.

Other upcoming park plantings include Harbor Springs (playground shade), Church Road (trail shade), and O’Donnell, McCarty and Georgetown (spectator-area shade at ballfields).

‘Doing my little part’

Over at Lakewood Park, Karalyn Falatovich invited friends, neighbors, and local business owners she knows to celebrate and commemorate Saturday’s planting, which is scheduled for 10 a.m. Earlier this week from the park’s shelter, Karalyn pointed to the northeast corner where her American Maples – “fast growers and hardy,” says Kuehn – will stand along the pedestrian path. She and husband Justin regularly enjoy spending time at the park, particularly on the path with their doggos, Deigs and Nora.

“They wanna go around the park, chase geese, and be on this blacktop,” Karalyn says. “So I’m just doing my little part to keep it cool.”