Hundreds of donated trees taking root at Illinois State Fairgrounds

SPRINGFIELD (Illinois News Network) — When the Illinois Department of Agriculture announced in 2015 it would lose more than 200 trees at the State Fairgrounds, primarily due to the emerald ash borer, one of the oldest agricultural organizations in the state decided to step in and replace them.

Joe Khayyat, executive director of the Illinois Green Industry Association, said his organization agreed to donate 200 trees to the Department of Agriculture over a four-year period.

The association has over-delivered on that promise during the past three years.

“We think that by donating trees and helping plant new trees and replacing that canopy, we’re improving the quality of life for everybody that comes to the fairgrounds,” Khayyat said.

Khayyat said he worked closely with the Department of Agriculture to identify spots where trees were needed on the fairgrounds, taking into consideration utilities, overhead obstructions and the need for shade.

“They (the Department of Agriculture) put together a wish list and then we took that wish list to members of our association and told them what we were looking for in a given year,” Khayyat said.

“Our members were quick to be forthcoming with tree donations,” he said.

Members of the association include nurseries, landscape companies, growers of trees and plants, irrigation contractors and landscape designers.

Khayyat said trees are being planted all over the Illinois State Fairgrounds.

“You’ll see trees in the campground, you’ll see new trees in front of the Department of Agriculture building and you’ll see new trees on the backside of the tracks,” Khayyat said. “You’ll also see new trees in the middle of the fairgrounds where they’ve cut out concrete to plant trees where there have never been trees before.”

Late fall is the perfect time to plant new trees because it gives trees a chance to get a strong root base established, Khayyat said.

“We have chosen the fall to do this each year because it gives us the best chance to ensure the trees that we do plant on the fairgrounds are successful, viable, and that we’re actually making a difference there for people to enjoy for years to come,” Khayyat said.

The association has been part of the nursery landscape industry of Illinois since 1925.

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