As 2023 approaches, Barrington Area Conservation Trust is looking forward to focusing on our roots. BACT's first 20 years were full of new adventures (visit our history timeline)! COVID created a whole new set of challenges. To lead us into our next chapter, we welcome our newly structured team!
Introducing the Executive Committee
Matthew P. Vondra, President
Matt loved driving through Barrington Hills on his way to Barrington High School for springboard diving practice when he was a teen, but he would never have guessed that he would fall in love with a North Barrington gal and fulfill his dream of living in Barrington Hills.
Matt has resided on Old Sutton Road with his wife Erin and their children since 2012. He became a BACT Trustee in 2013, after completing a conservation project adjacent to his family’s mining business that inspired him to contribute locally.
Matt worked with the Forest Preserve District of Cook County and the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission to restore a large area of Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin in order to bypass
stormwater flows, improve groundwater temperature and chemistry, mitigate off-site conditions, and protect the Fen long-term. As a result, Matt was anonymously nominated and awarded an Audubon-Chicago Region Grassroots Conservation Leadership Award along with his colleagues at the INPC.
Desiring to help local landowners preserve the natural environment closer to his home, Matt got involved with BACT’s operations and fundraising. “I’m inspired by the people that I am meeting at BACT and in the community, and the work they’re doing on local properties,” says Matt. “The community is very passionate about conservation and the BACT staff demonstrates professionalism through their depth of information and expertise, along with what it will take to implement a restoration plan.“
Matt looks forward to seeing more community leaders from all generations and backgrounds get involved with BACT and its restoration activities. “The Barrington Area Conservation Trust is your resource to protect privately held land, and is active and engaged in the community. The people who are involved with BACT are concerned with preserving open space and creating the conditions where private landowners can achieve their objectives to protect land in perpetuity.”
Matthew Wilkens, Vice-President
Matt grew up in rural Illinois (100 miles west of Chicago) where he worked for a landscaping operation for 9 years. He further developed his love for open space through activities such as hunting, fishing and hiking. His father's initial career was for the US Forestry Department in Idaho, so conservation and leaving land better than you found it was a key component to his upbringing, along with an appreciation for the outdoors and establishing areas of conservation for natural ecosystems and animal populations.
Matt graduated from Hope College in Holland, MI, with a degree in Business Management. He started his career with a wire and cable manufacturer in Bensenville selling wire to electric utilities, and eventually transitioned into commercial
insurance. He currently serves as Vice President of Sales at The Plexus Groupe, LLC in Deer Park. Matt joined the Barrington community in 2011, when he married his wife, Britini. He lives in Inverness with their children: Hunter, Hallie and Holt. Matt joined the BACT Board in 2020, serving on the Finance and Personnel Committees.
Matt enjoys spending time with his family instilling conservation values, golfing, hunting, fishing, and - when he can find some extra time - flying planes.
Loren E. Ekstrom, Treasurer
Larry, a longtime resident of Barrington, is an Institutional Consulting Director with Graystone Consulting, the investment consulting division of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney. Larry is a charter member and two-times past President of The Association of Professional Investment Consultants and was awarded the prestigious H. John Ellis Award in 2007, recognizing his achievements in the field of investment management consulting.
A graduate of Barrington High School, Larry studied economics and finance at Northwestern University, where he was captain of the Northwestern Hockey Team. After graduating from Northwestern University, Larry joined E.F. Hutton and Company, the predecessor firm of Graystone Consulting.
Larry joined the BACT Board in 2009, soon joining the Finance Committee, and has served as Treasurer since 2019. Larry is a trustee of the Swedish American Museum and served on the board of the English-Speaking Union. He is also a member of the Barrington Hills Country Club where he plays golf and shoots skeet. He also enjoys skiing, sailing, vintage sports cars and outdoor wilderness adventures. Larry and his wife Laura, who also grew up in Barrington, reside on Oak Knoll Road in Barrington Hills with their two children..
Karen Trzaska, Secretary
Karen moved to Barrington Hills in 2000, where she raised her three grown children. Nature is her family's happy place and she believes we all must contribute to the preservation of our natural resources in any way that we can.
With her and her fiancé Rick having a blended household of six grown children who will one day start families of their own, Karen has a growing concern about what we pass on to our future generations. Her entire immediate and extended family live in the area, thus she is deeply invested in the community. "I am grateful that BACT provides tangible opportunities to be involved in conservation efforts in our own backyard," Karen says.
Karen is currently the Director of Sales and Marketing, External Relations and Public Affairs for Stanley Machining in neighboring Carpentersville. She is a passionate advocate and has extensive experience in serving nonprofits. Karen is proud to be a part of BACT's amazing team of staff, board and volunteers.
BACT's Newest Trustee
Charles B. Keppel
Charlie started with Hendricksen Tree Experts in 1977 to oversee the Lake Barrington Shores design, as well as the preservation of their trees during and after construction. That team continued maintaining the trees and natural areas of LBS as Davey Tree Experts after a merger in 2008. Charlie retired from the day-to-day operations in 2020. He still consults for Davey Tree on the larger tree preservation and ecological restoration projects.
Charlie also consulted with Citizens for Conservation on projects such as Barrington Bog, Grigsby Prairie and Flint Creek preserves over the last 40+ years.
Charlie started working with Barrington Area Conservation Trust during the Concours de Excellence in 2007. From there, we created the Greatest Oak contest together, which provided great publicity as well as sending out the message
of preserving Barrington’s Oaks. Since 2015, Charlie has helped to transform the Far Field prairie into an Oak Savanna. ”We have been having great fun on site with our yearly Oaktoberfest! It has been a great way to educate the youth,” Charlie says. ”It also has been an excellent opportunity to help educate the public about who we are and to learn about the environment.”
Charlie adds, “A major goal in my life, since the 1960’s, has been to do what I can to restore and preserve what God has given us. Together with BACT, we are doing many great things to move toward that goal.”
Winter Tree Tips
Good Grooming – the Key to Healthy Trees
Winter is the ideal time for grooming trees for health, safety and appearance. The shape of the tree is readily visible and the branches ae easily accessible. Many trees should ONLY be pruned in the winter when they are dormant – opening a wound on an Oak during the growing season can invite disease. Consulting an arborist to groom your trees can ensure the right techniques are used, and that everyone and everything stays safe.
“My Poor Tree is Covered in Ice!”
Chicago winters are well known to provide plenty of ice and snow! Keeping trees properly pruned will help prevent ice damage. Without weak and odd-angled branches, trees are much more able to stand up to the weight of winter buildup.
Resist the temptation to shake the snow and ice off of the “poor tree”. Those branches may be brittle from the cold and can break. Suddenly removing the weight can cause the tree to spring back upright, which can also lead to damage. If you do see that a limb has broken, prune it cleanly as soon as the weather allows. Bowed branches should naturally return to their proper position as the weather shifts.
Always remember to stay safe – heavily burdened branches can be hazardous to people, pets and cars below. Report issues involving power lines to the utility company immediately.
Don’t be Salty
No one wants to slip and fall, but too much salt is not a good thing! Different types of salt work differently – be sure to check the package for recommended usage. Salts with calcium chloride or magnesium calcium acetate are less harmful to plants than sodium chloride.
Help protect trees and plantings from road salt with a snow fence. Granulated gypsum applied in late fall with a lawn spreader along where salt is expected can help mitigate salt burn and reduce the amount of salt that leaches down to deeper rooted plants such as trees.
Protect trees and shrubs, particularly the young and tender, from cold and critter damage by wrapping them in burlap. A chicken wire fence surrounding the trunk will keep hungry deer and rabbits from nibbling on the bark. Organic mulch spread around the base of a tree provides nutrients, conserves moisture and insulates. Be sure not to “volcano” the mulch up the tree trunk! Keep it back 2-3 inches.
Trying to identify trees without their summer wardrobe can be tricky! The Field Museum has this helpful guide: Chicago Region Trees in Winter. Listen to our latest podcast for some background on forest therapy, then bundle up and head out into the trees for some winter fun!
Have you listened to BACT’s podcast yet? Visit our website Library!
Our most recent episode: “Finding our Way in the Forest”. Let’s explore the value of green spaces when it comes to our physical and mental health. Research shows time spent in nature promotes well-being! Try some of the suggested activities yourself and let us know what you experience.
Check out our YouTube channel for companion videos to our podcast series.
These podcasts and videos
are made possible through funding by the Barrington Area Community Foundation.