Honoring Karen Coburn, Former Urban Forestry Commission Chair

Submitted by Sherry Stanek, Urban Forestry Commission Chair    

     2020 has certainly changed the order of many, many things!  In April of this year, the Urban Forestry Commission along with Brian Neumeister, Whitewater City Forester, were poised to celebrate Arbor Day on April 24th by dedicating a beautiful young oak tree at Cravath Lakefront Park to Karen Coburn for her years of dedication and hard work on the Whitewater Urban Forestry Commission, the last several of her years as Chairwoman.  Like many things, the coronavirus had other plans for all of us, so we decided to wait until things quieted down. As the UFC Chair who has tried to follow in Karen’s footsteps, I’ve decided that 2020’s Arbor day will be celebrated in November instead of April this year because we don’t want to wait any longer to honor her with this now virtual dedication! 

   The Urban Forestry Commission is a very dynamic and active group of volunteers that is tasked with overseeing the health of trees in our city and the education of the city’s residents on trees, birds, water quality and environmental topics in general. 

     Karen’s first big project was the successful educational campaign and organizing of the fundraising effort to construct a Chimney Swift Tower at Cravath Lakefront Park near the gazebo which has educated and been enjoyed by many in Whitewater.  Under Karen’s leadership, Urban Forestry spent a lot of time working to restore the Oak Savannah at Walton Oaks Park along with Wes Enterline of the UW-W Sustainability Office and his student volunteers. Karen organized several Main Street Festival UFC Events including games, education and crafts to engage and instruct citizens on the importance of the environment and everyone’s part in it. She also staged a great Bird Fair in celebration of International Migratory Bird Day at the Cravath Community Center which featured a huge banner painted with birds of many different breeds and sizes that attendees enjoyed standing in front of to figure out their own ‘wingspan.’  The entire community took part in painting a beautiful banner under the direction of Carol Yasko that depicted many many birds.  Both of these items are still available to share with our schools and community. Because of the hard work of the UFC under Karen’s direction, we have enjoyed huge attendance and lots of fun at all of our events.  Karen also oversaw the construction of a Purple Martin House which is dedicated to the late Jerry and Bunny Schoen at Minnieska Park and I’m happy to report that three pairs of Purple Martins successfully raised families there this summer!

   Karen Coburn continues to be as active a member of Whitewater as she can be during this health crisis and I’m very sure we aren’t done seeing the fruits of her labors in the future as well.  The City of Whitewater and the Urban Forestry Commission would like to thank her for all of her energy, tireless direction, education and all of the many hours that she spent leading the UFC in efforts too numerous to mention them all here. Karen has made this community a better place.  Please be sure and tell her thank you when you see her!

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