Fruit forest at Lincoln Park will be for all to pick

 

By Jeff Long

There are some new trees at Lincoln Park on Aurora’s West Side. They’re fruit trees – peach, apple, cherry – and they will someday welcome everyone to pick their fruit.

It’s a fruit forest. And it’s the first of its kind in Aurora.

Local resident Tim Neuenkirchen’s is credited with the idea. Watching a YouTube video one day, Neuenkirchen was intrigued by stories and footage of the Beacon Food Forest, an urban oasis for foragers in downtown Seattle.

To which Neuenkirchen thought, “Why not Aurora?”

The Fox Valley Park District’s Board of Commissioners agreed, and in April, some 20 volunteers came together to “plant all layers of the forest with edible things,” said Neuenkirchen, “from huge trees all the way down to plants that grow in the ground.”

A couple of Park District experts were enlisted to help nurture the forest’s growth, which will take several years to develop. Horticulture Supervisor Helen Wohlfeil oversees the District’s greenhouse operations while Chris Kuehn, Manager of Trees and Lakes, is a certified arborist.

Over one dozen trees are already planted, including a pair of two-foot high pecan trees, which will ultimately grow to 70 to 100 feet in height. Trees in the mid-range are of the apple, peach, pear and cherry variety.

In mid-June, the “ground work” will get under way with plantings of low-lying strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and rhubarb.

Lincoln Park is an ideal site; it’s centrally located, popular with residents of all ages and is adjacent to the Park District greenhouse with easy access to water for irrigation. Even more, it features walking trails and a dog park – the perfect family gathering place to enjoy some fresh air and, soon, fresh fruit.

However, Kuehn said it will likely be 8 to 10 years before everything comes to fruition. A similar project is currently under way at Rogers Park in Chicago, modeled after the inspirational success story in Seattle.

Of course, any “free” food source begs the question of what to do with overzealous pickers. No definitive answer on how to handle that predicament has been established yet, though.

For now, getting the project on its feet and raising awareness among residents is the priority.

“This is a true gift to the neighborhood that will last for generations by creating sustainable resources for the community,” Neuenkirchen said.

In many ways, Lincoln Park is shaping up as a green epicenter, where fresh-grown food and the bounty of nature foster feelings of pride and ownership.

“Nurturing plants in a cooperative way creates a neighborhood bond that nourishes the community,” Neuenkirchen said. “There’s something special when you have everybody working alongside each other peacefully while sharing and enjoying public open space.”

And, soon, they’ll be enjoying the fruits of their labor.

Jeff Long (jlong@fvpd.net) is the public affairs and communications manager for the Fox Valley Park District.

Editor’s note: If you have fruit trees, make sure you register them here.

 

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