Gary F. Balling

Gary F. Balling joined the Openlands board in 2013. He retired in April 2012 after 36 years in the Illinois park and recreation profession. During his career he served the profession at the Naperville, St. Charles, Northbrook, Morton Grove, and Oak Park Park Districts. Gary’s last 25 years were in the role of Executive Director in Morton Grove and Oak Park. He is a graduate of Eastern Illinois University, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Park and Recreation Administration. He received his Master’s Degree in the Management and Development of Human Resources from National Louis University.

Gary was born and raised in Chicago and has seven brothers and sisters, thus he knows the true meaning of cooperation and consensus building. He lives with his wife, Susan, in Long Beach, Indiana near Lake Michigan and Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

“I wanted to be part of a group that is making a sincere commitment to preserving our natural resources for future generations,” says Gary. “I am newly retired, and felt challenged to use the many skills, talents, and insights I developed during my 35 years as a certified park and recreation professional. My extensive background with park districts and open space in the Chicago region seemed an ideal fit with the Openlands Mission.”

“As a new board member I am still looking for my niche, as to how I can best serve our organization, but Openlands’ continued work toward the preservation of open spaces and the development of partners are my top priorities. Since my wife and I currently live in Indiana, just around the Lake, I have an interest in regional projects.

“I enjoy outdoor leisure activities such as hiking, gardening, cycling, and enjoying the lakefront beach.  I also enjoy visiting local, regional, state, and national parks and fly fishing with my wife’s family in the State of Washington.”


  • B.S. (Park and Recreation Administration), Eastern Illinois University
  • M.S. (Management and Development of Human Resources), National Louis University

Civic and non-profit affiliations

  • Illinois Park and Recreation Association
  • Illinois Association of Park Districts

Favorite activities and areas of expertise

Gary enjoys walking, jogging, fly fishing, and traveling.