Lake Forest's city staff and several city departments, along with representatives of local schools, Lake Forest College and the Lake Forest Open Lands Association, have formed a collaborative to better educate residents on environmental sustainability and address the community's environmental concerns.
"I think it's a very progressive thing that the city leadership had a vision for," said Curt Volkmann, chairman of the collaborative. "This is not going to be a committee or collaborative that just talks about things. We need to be the people that are out doing."
Named the Lake Forest Collaborative for Environmental Leadership, the group's three main goals are re-greening, especially in the wake of the emerald ash borer and ash tree removal; ravine restoration; and promotion of native species and planting.
Volkmann said Lake Forest's ravines are particularly highly prized and unique to the community as well as a very important ecosystem.
"We want to all be partnering and sending the same message to the community," Volkmann said. "We want to educate residents and show them what the benefits are."
The collaborative is looking at energy usage, solid waste, water management, and aims to promote environmental diversity in the community's public and private lands.
"These are the most timely things that we need to put our energy into," Volkmann said.
City Manager Bob Kiely was instrumental in putting the group together and said it's about environmental education.
"It's important for a community to have and is consistent with our strategic plan," Kiely said. "We're trying to promote various environmental activities."
The collaborative plans to piggy-back on the city's monthly community gatherings and will host its own public forums, including beginning with one Thursday on the community's water, where it comes from and where it goes.
"The whole idea is to hear what people think in the community, what are their concerns about water use, water conservation, anything like that," Volkmann said. "That education will help people make better decisions in terms of stormwater management and how to be more sustainable."
Discussion to form the group began about a year and a half ago, but official meetings began in March. The group meets monthly and invites guest speakers.
"Right now, we're at the stage of putting a lot of info together," Volkmann said. "We're putting together a list of native plant selections for residents, public forums similar to the community gatherings, and a number of things are coming up in the future."
Lake Forest High School's science department chair, Jim Sullivan, who is a member of the collaborative, said he is really excited about the group's work.
"We've got two school districts, community members and our former superintendent all sitting together, along with individuals from parks and recreation and Open Lands," Sullivan said. "It's been a really good experience, and I think we're going to do some good work."