Monthly archives: September, 2015

Start Spreading the News: Urban Wood Conference 3-18-16

 Circle March 18, 2016 on your calendar and make plans to join the Illinois Wood Utilization Team for the inaugural Bringing the Urban Forest Full Circle Conference.

We’re beyond excited that Hamburger University on McDonald’s Corporation’s iconic campus in Oak Brook, IL, will host the event. In addition, McDonald’s has agreed to donate some of the ash trees it is losing to the emerald ash borer, some of which will be used for a portable sawmill presentation during the conference.

The Illinois WUT conference committee is developing a conference that will focus on industry best practices to convert trees, including those infested by the invasive emerald ash borer, into lumber that can be reincarnated as furniture, cabinets, flooring, etc. The conference will provide a unique networking forum for bring together stakeholders from all links of the chain – land managers and arborists through sawyers and woodworkers.

Additional conference and registration details will be coming soon, as will information about sponsorship and exhibit opportunities at

Not only do we hope that you will plan to attend, we ask your help in sharing this link – Bringing the Urban Forest Full Circle – with land managers, arborists, sawyers, woodworkers, retailers, members of the A&D community and anyone else you know who might be interested in taking a front row seat on the ground floor of the urban wood market.

For additional details and inquiries, contact Rich Christianson, conference director, at or 773-822-6750.

Save the Date: 2016 Urban Wood Conference & Networking Event

McDonald's-CampusThe unique opportunities and benefits of developing and sustaining an urban wood marketplace will be thoroughly explored at “Bringing the Urban Forest Full Circle,” a conference and table top exhibition scheduled for Friday, March 18, 2016 at Hamburger University in Oak Brook, IL.

The event is being organized by the Illinois Wood Utilization Team (WUT), a broad-based group dedicated to promoting the harvest and best use of wood cultivated from urban and community trees. WUT members include representatives of state and municipal government agencies, arborists, land managers, sawyers, lumber distributors, architects, designers, woodworkers, green builders and academia.

The Bringing the Urban Forest Full Circle Conference will provide a vital forum for all urban forestry stakeholders to address the steps needed to create and sustain a viable value-added market for lumber salvaged from trees removed or harvested from urban forests which includes trees on private and public lands in and around cities of all sizes. Urban trees capable of being processed into quality lumber include those infested by the emerald ash borer, damaged by storms, removed by public utilities and other life-ending causes.

The conference will focus on industry best practices for urban tree removal and milling through wood product manufacturing and marketing.

Hamburger University, situated on McDonald’s heavily wooded, 80-acre corporate campus near several major expressways, is an ideal location for the Bringing the Urban Forest Full Circle Conference. McDonald’s has a long history of environmental stewardship of its campus forest and in recent years has lost hundreds of trees to the emerald ash borer.

The emerald ash borer is considered the most destructive pest to ever invade North American forests. The exotic beetle is blamed for killing tens of millions of trees in more than 20 states and several Canadian provinces. Up to now, the vast majority of these terminally infested trees upon removal have been expeditiously chipped or ground into mulch. Fact is the majority of these ash trees contain perfectly usable wood that can readily be turned into lumber for making furniture, cabinets, flooring and other secondary wood products. The end game of the Bringing the Urban Forest Full Circle Conference is to rally all stakeholders to take action and give these dying urban forest trees a second life as functional and decorative furnishings and objects.

“Reclaiming valuable wood products from felled tree landscape trees is just a smart idea,” said Edith Makra, chairman of the Illinois Wood Utilization Team. “There are so many stakeholders – from arborists who must fell trees and industries who make wood products to consumers who find the story of urban compelling. The aim of our conference is to link these key players in the supply chain to spark an innovative, sustainable urban wood products industry in our region.”

Additional information about the Bringing the Urban Forest Full Circle Conference, including registration, sponsorship and display table details, will be posted at as they become available.

To learn more about attending, sponsoring or exhibiting at the conference, contact Rich Christianson, conference director, at, 773-822-6750.


About the Illinois Wood Utilization Team
Founded in 2007, the Illinois Wood Utilization Team is a network of land managers, professionals in the wood products industry, natural resource and green building experts and artisans dedicated to promoting and developing a sustainable market place for achieving the best possible use of trees felled in the urban forest. The Illinois WUT is part of a four-state grant project funded through the USDA Forest Service Northeastern Area. Other grant partners include the Southeast Michigan Resource Conservation and the Southeast Michigan Resource Conservation and Development Council and Recycle Ann Arbor; the Missouri Department of Conservation; and the Sustainable Resources Institute Inc. and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.


Woodworking Enthusiasts Get a Taste of Urban Wood


urban wood, Chicago Park District

Eric Boelkens, woodworking instructor at Horner Park, shows off a wood robot made by one of his beginner students.


By Rich Christianson

Children and adults alike learn or hone their woodworking skills through programming at Horner Park, one of 15 woodshops managed by the Chicago Park District.

Mike Dimitroff, manager of art iniatitves for the Chicago Park District, said woodshop classes like the ones held at Horner Park are part of the park district’s ongoing efforts to “grow and develop cultural arts programs.”

Horner Park hosted the September meeting of the Illinois Wood Utilization Team (WUT), which is hammering out details for an urban wood conference to be held in March 2016. Eric Boelkens, woodshop instructor, led WUT members on a meeting-adjourned tour of the Horner Park basement woodshop. The shop includes standard introductory woodworking equipment: band saw, table saw and jig saw.

Boelkens said he teaches woodworking to children as young as 7 years old as part of the very popular Family Woodshop class. Youth programs for boys and girls aged 9 to 12 make up the “core” of the program, he said, with adults-only classes also available.

Participants, including woodworking novices, are taught essential woodworking skills including measuring, designing, cutting and sanding. Projects range from birdhouses and small cabinets to bookcases depending on age and skill levels.

Members of the Illinois Wood Utilization Team discuss the March 2016 urban wood conference during its September meeting at Horner Park.

Members of the Illinois Wood Utilization Team discuss the March 2016 urban wood conference during its September meeting at Horner Park.

In many of the classes, participants are making products from urban wood salvaged from trees removed from park district land. Talk about getting a hands-on education on the value of giving wood a second life!

Youth classes start at a very affordable $16 ($32 for non-Chicago residents) for a 12-week program and only $40 ($80 for non-residents) for adult classes.

Horner Park is located at 2741 W. Montrose Ave. in Chicago. Learn more about woodcraft programs, class schedules and registration.

Find information about all 15 Chicago Park District woodshop facilities.