Openlands has long recognized that individual, isolated parcels of open space won’t function well unless connected within a system of open space corridors known as greenways. They protect natural and cultural resources, provide recreational opportunities, improve and sustain hydrological functions, and enhance the natural beauty and quality of life in neighborhoods and local communities.

We introduced the vision of a greenways system to our region in 1990 and have since focused on achieving it through policy and planning initiatives, land acquisition, restoration projects, and advocacy. We have assisted in the development of two comprehensive greenways plans for Northeast Illinois and Northwest Indiana.

Beyond simply providing a blueprint for the future, these plans also issue calls to action for government entities, advocacy groups, and residents alike. For example, plans emphasize the importance of mobilizing private property owners, who can fill gaps between existing protected spaces and create linear continuity in land and water-based passageways. This reduces fragmentation of wildlife habitat and improves stream quality, among other positive outcomes.