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Urbana Park District works to preserve Carle Park English Oak

August 20, 2021 01:08 PM

Carle Park has long been home to two very impressive and historic English oaks, located just southeast of the historic pavilion.  The larger of the two is recognized by a 1986 commemorative plaque identifying it as a state record for its species in Illinois and the second largest in the United States.

In 2016, Urbana Park District staff began observing that the two English oaks were beginning to show early signs of decline.  While the larger of the two English oaks still is persevering today, the smaller of the two has not survived and will soon be removed.  Staff are saddened to see one of the trees leaving the park and remain committed to provide top care for the remaining oak. 

Indeed, shortly after park staff noticed the oaks were declining, they consulted with former City of Urbana Arborist Mike Brunk, who now oversees Illinois Urban and Community Forestry for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.  Mike remarked “Many oak species in Illinois are experiencing challenges from a variety of factors and diseases.  English oaks such as those in Carle Park may be especially impacted by recent periods of extended drought in the summer and extreme cold in the winter”.  For the last five years and based upon his recommendations, staff have been watering these trees during dry periods and expanded upon their mulching to help retain soil moisture. 

Staff have additionally consulted with several area tree specialists on the care of these trees.  A growth regulator that encourages root growth was applied in 2017, and 2019, and more recently the remaining English oak received airspade vertical mulching and supplementation with a biochar/compost blend to further bolster the soil health around the tree. 

Urbana Park District Grounds Supervisor Rich McMahon and staff Arborist Brad Johnson are hopeful these treatments will extend the life of the remaining oak.  McMahon observed “The Urbana Park District is fortunate to have a wealth of mature trees that provide countless benefits to our community.  The care of these historic trees merits special care, much like oaks at Leal Park and many of our stately trees in Crystal Lake Park”. 

The park district welcomes any questions residents have about these trees or our tree program in general. 

Urbana Park District
Department of Planning and Operations


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