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CARE Party of Oak Park
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.
- 1 Political Activity
- 2 Ban on Pesticides
- 3 Tree Activism
- 4 Water Quality
- 5 Landscaping and Conservation of Resources
- 6 Bird Kill and Road Kill
- 7 Animal Welfare
- 8 Toxic Chemical Removal
- 9 Intergovernmental Cooperation in Environment
- 10 Water Conservation and Waste Reduction
- 11 References
- 12 Categories
Dr. Les Golden of Oak Park, Illinois, has directed successful candidacies for nearly 10 people and has slated dozens, all with a focus on environmental issues. He has also run as a candidate for the park board to bring forward environmental concerns. 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.
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 from the plan to put in a street and destroy the pedestrian mall. One of the political parties adopted his position as its major platform which led to a ban on future streeting of pedestrian areas.
In 2009, following Dr. Golden's advocacy, the Oak Park Park District created a Green Committee and enacted a Tree Preservation Ordinance. Althoug this was done to deflect criticism of the Park District by the CARE party and their supporters, the effect will have unquantifiable benefits.
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.
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, 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 (Citizens Active for Respect for the Environment), the local environmental group, he 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! Before the ban, dogs had died of ingesting pesticides and kids 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 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 2008 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 parking lot were to be destroyed. 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. He contacted the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, organized a rally on two days notice, arranged for the Chicago Tribune, Chicago t.v. stations, and the local media to be present, had speakers including the Green Party candidate for governor appear, and in an emergency meeting the Department of Natural Resources forced the local park district to save many of the trees slated for destruction.
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
He 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.
The village had intermittently published a “water quality” pamplet, which was poorly written and poorly organized. Dr. Golden suggested that it be done annually and commented in the newspapers about the amateur quality of the pamphlet. It is now published annually with a very professional presentation.
Landscaping and Conservation of Resources
When another 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.
Bird Kill and Road Kill
The new library was built with a façade of glass windows, which led to massive bird kill. Dr. Golden brought this to the attention of the public and the library installed shields that the birds view as an obstruction and the bird kill has ceased.
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 regularly monitors the busy streets and picks up the roadkill and brings it to the proper location for disposal. 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.
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, incarceration of large mammals in zoos, wildlife advocacy, and 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 stating it is 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
Around ten years ago, 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 by himself or with the help of neighbors, contacts the neighbors to see if they want the chipped up remains. He then carries bushels of chipped mulch to the homes and lays down the material. This saves the gas of the trucks carrying the 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. He estimated this saves 3 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 trees 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.
He lobbied the village to provide two sizes of garbage cans with different monthly fees to encourage recycling. The village finally instituted this policy. He is now working with the village to provide composting for vegetable kitchen waste.
Political Lawn Sign Recycling
He 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. He then delivers the yard signs and their metal spines to orphanages, schools, and libraries for use by children for art and architecture projects.
- (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
- Linden, Eric (1991), “’Dandelion Dig’ idea blooming,” Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest, May 29, p. 7
- 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
- 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