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CARE Party of Oak Park
MyWikiBiz, Author Your Legacy — Tuesday December 10, 2013
|Citizens Active for Respect for the Environment
|Residence||Oak Park, Illinois|
|Known for||Environmental Activism in the State of Illinois: preservation of trees, pesticide ban, inoculation of elm trees, combating global warming instruction in schools, forest preserve cleanup, proper mulching, election of environmentally-active candidates|
The CARE Party of Oak Park (Citizens Active for Respect for the Environment) had its founding in 1985 in Oak Park, Illinois. From 1989 until the current date, its president has been Les Golden. Under his direction, CARE has achieved numerous environmental successes, including the ban of pesticides, conservation of water and paper, reform of garbage collection, preservation of trees, landscaping, and the election of numerous individuals to positions on various boards to legislate such concerns.
Political and Educational Activity
Dr. Les Golden of Oak Park, Illinois, has directed successful candidacies for nearly ten individuals and has slated dozens, all with a focus on environmental issues. These include Francis "Bud" Corry, who became president of the park board, Christine Comer, who became president of the park board, Barbara Jepsen (park board), David Ristau (high school board), Steve Robinson (village board), George Doherty (township board), Gary Johnson (library board), Bruce Samuels (library board), and others. Professor Golden has also run as a candidate himself for the park board to bring forward environmental concerns.
Save the Pedestrian Mall
In 2005, Les Golden organized a movement to save the dozens of trees, hundreds of bushes, and numerous floral gardens on the Marion Street Pedestrian Mall from destruction resulting from the plan to put in a street and destroy the pedestrian mall. Flyers were printed and weekly rallies were held at the site for several months. The movement was covered by Chicago-area press and television, including an extensive interviewe on NBC by reporter Derrick Blakely.
As a result of Dr. Golden’s leadership, one of the political parties adopted his Save the Mall position as the major element of its platform. A ban on future streeting of pedestrian areas has now become village policy as a result of these activities.
In 2009, following Dr. Golden's advocacy, the Oak Park Park District created a Green Committee and enacted a Tree Preservation Ordinance. Although this was done to deflect criticism of the Park District by the CARE party and their supporters because of the lack of environmental consciousness on the part of the park district, the effect will have substantial, unquantifiable benefits for the future of our planet.
Green Building Design
Dr. Golden has had a leadership role in large-scale commercial development as principal of Holley Court Partners. His proposal features green technology, including LEED, a rooftop garden, and internal recycling.
Childrens’ Educational Activity
Dr. Golden or an associate from the CARE party periodically provide lectures and seminars at local schools and libraries to the schoolchildren. Although the subjects vary, the most frequently requested subjects are how to deal with baby wildlife found injured or orphaned in the Spring nesting season and how the individual can help battle global warming on a local level. Although unpaid for this work, Dr. Golden previously received a modest grant to hire a speaker for these activities.
Since 2006, annual fundraisers have been held to raise a total of $20,000 to fund guest expert lecturers to visit the local schools and libraries. It is envisioned that the fund, once established, will be self-sustaining. The focus of these lectures will be on educating the children on how they can combat global warming by local efforts.
The $50,000 “Trees: Our Natural Infrastructure for the Environment” Challenge
On January 1, 2010 Dr. Golden announced a program to raise $50,000 to inoculate trees against Dutch Elm disease. Elm trees require inoculation every three years to prevent the devastation of this disease, but governments prefer to cut down diseased trees rather than prevent their demise. In his press release, Dr. Golden wrote: “One of the most effective means that the individual can do to prevent global warming is to secure the lives of trees, the natural cooling infrastructure of the Earth. Each moderate size tree has the cooling capacity of dozens of air conditioners. Trees provide habitat for animals, both in their canopy and in their root structure, food, material for shelter, natural mulch, and prevent water run-off. The longest living and largest of all of nature’s creatures, we should devote ourselves to saving trees.”
Dr. Golden seeded the “Trees, Our Natural Infrastructure for the Environment” or “TONE” program with $5,000 of his own money. Each Arbor Day, Dr. Golden and his volunteers in the CARE Party place exhibits in the parks and raise money to reach the $50,000 goal. Once achieved, the principal and interest will provide a lasting fund to pay for the inoculation of all village trees against Dutch elm disease.
Ban on Pesticides
Ban Put in Place
In 1991, as the president of the CARE party, Les Golden slated and led the campaigns of three individuals who won election. On the first day in office in April 1991 they banned pesticides in the parks of Oak Park. For years a group of women in town had been writing letters and giving speeches to ban pesticides, to no avail. Dr. Golden knew the only way to achieve this was to get control of the park board, which he did. The ban remains in effect to this day!
Prior to the ban, dogs had died of ingesting pesticides and children who had crawled in the grass were developing intestinal problems. Dr. Golden wrote about organizing school kids to pick the weeds instead, which received widespread accolades in the local press.
Weed Picking and Green Committee
The idea of weed-picking to control weeds as an alternative to pesticides was slow in becoming reality. After periodic lobbying of the park district by Golden and the members of the CARE party over many years, however, the creation of a Green Committee by the park district in 2009 has finally formalized Golden’s proposal and made weed-picking rather than pesticides the practice at every park in the village. The practice has now been adopted as well by neighboring towns.
Educating Against Volcano Mulching
With the onslaught of Dutch elm disease, the village plants new parkway trees. But the landscapers “volcano mulch” the newly planted trees for appearance sake and this leads to root-bound trees which then die prematurely. Dr. Golden in 2009 led a movement which led to the Boy Scouts in Oak Park being recruited and instructed in proper mulching and their properly mulching all the newly planted parkway trees in the village.
Saving Old Growth Trees
In about 1998, Dr. Golden discovered that all the trees around a school parking lot were to be destroyed by staff members of the Oak Park Park District, working on taxpayer time. He organized the local parents and their children, and notified the Chicago television media to cover the protest. Diann Burns of ABC Channel 7 famously reported, "Why don't they just move the fence?!"
In 2007, Dr. Golden discovered that all the old growth trees in a park in Oak Park were to be destroyed for a ball field. The construction was to be paid for in part by a matching grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Within 48 hours, he organized a resident rally in the park for which he notified the Chicago Tribune, Chicago television stations, and the local media, arranged for speakers including the Green Party candidate for lieutenant governor, wrote a flyer and had it printed and distributed throughout Oak Park notifying residents of the rally, and contacted the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the local state senator.
As a result, the Department of Natural Resources called an emergency public hearing, and forced the local park district to save many of the trees slated for destruction. The DNR spokesman verified in the press that no notice of the impending destruction was made in the application for matching state funds. The parents of school children who played around the trees paid for a marker which was placed under the largest tree in the park that was saved. The marker reads, "The Field Playground Tree, Saved by Dr. Les Golden, July 2007." 
Prevention of Deforestation
Another tree-lined park in Oak Park was to be deforested as part of “development.” Dr. Golden organized a movement to save the trees in that park, and they have now been preserved as part of the redesign.
Organization of Neighborhoods
Les Golden has for many years organized neighbors to pay for preventative treatment of elm trees against Dutch Elm disease and ash trees against Emerald borer-born disease and this has led to the saving of many trees in Oak Park. The village provides no money for such preventative measure, and the CARE party continues its lobbying for the village to provide a cost-sharing program with residents for future inoculation.
The village had intermittently published a “water quality” pamphlet, which was poorly written and poorly organized. Dr. Golden suggested that it be done annually and commented in the newspapers about the quality of the pamphlet. It is now published annually with a very professional presentation, containing vital information about testing procedures and the level of contaminants in the water.
Landscaping and Conservation of Resources
When a park was developed, Dr. Golden lobbied the contractors and the park district to save the dozens of flowering bushes and to make them available for homeowners to plant in their gardens. He obtained the services of landscapers for no charge and those bushes now thrive surrounding numerous homes in the area. This also saves ground water.
Each Fall, the park district resods worn portions of soccer and baseball fields. Les Golden met with park district officials and arranged an annual “Sod Distribution Week” during which the trimmings are made available to homeowners for use in their lawns rather than driven to landfills.
Since 1995, Dr. Golden has worked with a local Boy Scout troop for “Saturday Morning Trash Pickup” days. He drives the scouts to the local forest preserves and works with them and their scout leaders to pick up discarded bottles, plastics, paper, and other trash. Not only does this beautify the parks, it prevents creatures from ingesting the material or using it for nesting material.
Bird Kill and Road Kill
When a new library was built in Oak Park, it was constructed with a large façade of glass windows, which led to massive bird kill. Dr. Golden brought this to the attention of the public and library board and the library installed shields that the birds view as an obstruction. The bird kill has ceased and village leaders became aware of the need for such protective measures in new commercial buildings that were built.
Dr. Golden has organized a “road kill” brigade. For years, he has written a column each fall and each spring asking motorists to slow down and “stop the roadkill.” He and other volunteers from the CARE party regularly monitor the main streets in the community, pick up the roadkill, and bring it to the proper location. This prevents other critters from going onto the road and trying to eat the kill and getting killed themselves.
He is currently lobbying the village to place speed bumps on the streets next to the forest preserves where many critters live and is lobbying Cook County to put restraining fences along those roads that pass through unincorporated areas.
Believing that the Earth belongs to all its creatures, Dr. Golden writes frequently about animal welfare and is an activist on their behalf. This includes combating dog fighting, opposing incarceration of large mammals in zoos, wildlife advocacy, and supporting animal rehabilitation facilities. 
Toxic Chemical Removal
In the Fall of 2007, Dr. Golden, who has degrees in engineering as well as astronomy, observed children in the park playing with a large bucket of the extremely toxic construction chemical, crystalline silica. Among other indicators, the State of California requires a label noting it to be a carcinogen. It had been left by workmen outside a daycare center in the park. After receiving no aide from municipal officials, Dr. Golden took matters into his own hands and at his own health risk removed the bucket, covered it up, and drove it to the local waste management site for proper disposal.
Intergovernmental Cooperation in Environment
In 2002, Dr. Golden suggested that the chipped-up mulch from dead parkway trees be used in the parks and school grounds for landscaping rather than driven to landfills, with the waste of gas and associated pollution. He contacted the school district, the park district, and the village and organized them to cooperate to make this their policy.
When a tree in his neighborhood is cut down (usually for Dutch elm disease), Dr. Golden contacts nearby residents and notifies them of the availability of the chipped-up mulch. He then moves bushels of chipped mulch to the various homes and helps the homeowner lay down the material. This saves the gas of the trucks carrying the wood chips to landfills and provides material for mulching trees and landscaping.
Water Conservation and Waste Reduction
When the park was installing a splash pad, Dr. Golden argued that a mechanical on-off switch would lead to massive waste of water and persuaded the park district to install an electric eye switch so that water would be used only when kids were in the splash pad area. This saves approximately three million gallons of fresh water every summer season.
Saving Newsletter Waste
Over a period of years, Dr. Golden wrote letters and spoke to the various elected boards in Oak Park about the need to save paper by combining newsletters. As a result of his efforts, the library and the grammar school district combined their newsletters with that of the municipal government.
Golden and the CARE party lobbied the village to provide two sizes of garbage cans with different monthly fees to encourage recycling. The village finally instituted this policy in 2010.
He is now working with the village to begin community-wide composting of vegetable kitchen waste. He is also discussing with village officials a mean to institute a garbage collection scheme in which people pay only for the garbage they generate. This would reduce waste beyond that resulting from the two-garbage -can size program.
Political Lawn Sign Recycling
Dr. Golden has consistently lobbied against the use of political lawn signs during election cycles. After the polls are closed, he contacts the schools, churches, and other polling places to gather the yard signs. He also has organized volunteers to walk the neighborhoods to pick up yard signs from the lawns of homeowners. He then delivers the yard signs and their metal spines to orphanages, schools, and libraries for use by children for art and architecture projects.
This activity is accompanied by letters to the editor providing suggestions for using the lawn sign material. In addition to the use of the plastic material for school art projects, Golden suggests using it to create insulating boxes (for example, a summer project for the kids before going on a picnic which will teach them the value of reusing material in a conservation effort) instead of using Styrofoam. He also has suggested using the metal spines for gardening, either, for example, to support tomato plants or to provide structure for the growth of vines of climbing vegetable plants.
- ^ (2001) Golden, Les, “It’s not easy being green, but here are some ideas”, Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest, April 11, p. 40
- ^ http://www.oak-park.us/public/pdfs/Planning/Harlem_South/2006%20RFP%20Responses/09.26.06_Holley%20Court%20Partners.pdf
- ^ Linden, Eric (1991), “’Dandelion Dig’ idea blooming,” Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest, May 29, p. 7
- ^ http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2004-11-24/news/0411240206_1_new-trees-oak-park-district-mulberry-trees
- ^ Dwyer, Bill (2007), “Tree Fury at Field,” Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest, July 10, p. 1; http://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/07-10-2007/Tree_fury_at_Field
- ^ Noel, Josh (2007), “Oak Park tree-removal plan heads for debate,” Chicago Tribune, July 12, p. 7; http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2007-07-19/news/0707181717_1_trees-park-renovation-plan
- ^ (2004) http://www.oakparkjournal.com/2007/2007-Field-Park-ralley-July-8th-2pm.html
- ^ Golden, Les (2002), “All it would take is a fence to keep critters alive,” Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest, June 12, p. 41
- ^ Golden, Les (2000), “Les ‘Cut the Roadkill’ Golden says, Slow Down!”, Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest, April 19, p. 25
- ^ Golden, Leslie M. (2005), “Elephant deaths are a matter of physics,” Chicago Sun-Times, January 28, p. 24
- ^ (2000) “Trailside needs a champion,” Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest (editorial), November 1, p. 32
- ^ Vincent, Ed (2002), “The Lost Chukar,” http://www.suburbanjournals.com/Stories2002/Lost-Chukar-Returned-Home-2002.html, August 10
- ^ http://www.elephantinformation.com/CEMENT%20FLOORING%20or%20HARD%20DIRT%20GROUND.htm
- ^ Golden, Les (2000), “Hey, Sylvestri, save our furry and feathered friends,” Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest, October 25, p. 34
- ^ Little, Rebecca and Trainor, Ken (2000) “Silvestri responds to Golden, Trailside,” Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest, November 1, p. 2
- ^ Golden, Les “Let’s Save the Dogs” Golden (2002), “Ask politicians to make dog fighting a felony,” Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest, May 22, p. 32; (2008)
- ^ “Inside Report: Les ‘Cut the coyotes a break’ Golden,” Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest, January 23, p. 5
- ^ “Oak Park Environmentalist Persuades School to Save Taxpayer Dollars, Intergovernmental Cooperation the Key to Recycling Dutch Elm Mulch,” www.oakparkjournal.com/stories2004/2005-les-golden-mulch-nov.html
- ^ http://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/04-03-2012/Ways_for_Oak_Park_residents_to_recycle_those_campaign_signs
- ^ http://oakpark.suntimes.com/opinions/letters/11474365-474/letters-to-the-editor.html