Volunteerism by arborists and landscapers has helped showcase one of the primary features of Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery.
They have come to the cemetery for the past four years for Saluting Branches: Arborists United for Veteran Remembrance, a nationwide, annual day of volunteerism at veterans cemeteries.
About 60 volunteers from 11 companies and municipalities came to the Elwood cemetery Wednesday.
Tasks included cutting down dead trees, planting new ones, removing brush and adding perennials to the cemetery landscaping.
Again, the volunteers cleared trees from the Memorial Walkway, a path through what had been an overgrown wooded area lined with veteran memorials.
“Before we started opening it up, people would just go by it and not even know it was there,” said Joe Curran, irrigation technician at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery. Now, Curran said, “A lot of people go there, sit on benches and take it all in.”
Cemetery gardener Jason Grizzle estimated that the cemetery gets about $100,000 worth of tree and landscaping work every year from the volunteers.
“We don’t have all the money in the budget to do all the tree work here, especially with the emerald ash borer,” Grizzle said.
One of the tasks of the arborists is to cut down the dead ash trees.
Darin Ryan with D. Ryan Tree and Landscape estimated the arborists also brought about
$6 million worth of equipment Tuesday.
“The primary thing is paying it forward and honoring all the heroes,” Ryan said.
Joliet city arborist Jim Teiber is the coordinator for the event each year.
Teiber said it is gratifying to volunteer for the sake of veterans and to see the results of the work.
“At the entryway when you come in, if you look at the black-eyed Susan and cornflower that we planted last year, it’s a showy feature,” he said. “It might help put a smile on people’s faces.”