At the Volunteer Expo in late February, Chicago Rises had a chance to connect with some amazing organizations. One of the them was Openlands. We hope to partner with Openlands to help spread the word on their mission to connect all of us to nature here!


Connecting People to Nature in Chicago

Founded in 1963 as a program of the Welfare Council of Metropolitan Chicago, Openlands has been at the very forefront of the urban conservation movement. As one of the first organizations in the United States to address environmental issues within a metropolitan region, their/our work has focused on people as much as on the nature, and Openlands strives to foster a great appreciation among the residents of Chicago for the natural areas around them.

Through the years Openlands has helped protect more than 55,000 acres of land for public parks and forest preserves, wildlife refuges, land and water greenway corridors, urban farms, and community gardens. Openlands’ work in Chicago empowers residents to care for their city by improving the health and wellness of their neighbors, engaging in the greening of their streets and schools, and caring for their local parks and community gardens.

Join the Openlands Community and Get Involved

Become a TreeKeeper, volunteer, plant trees, include your whole workplace or start a community garden. Here are a few of the ways you can get involved with Openlands this spring:

TreeKeepers work throughout the region to keep trees healthy, administering proper care and promptly recognizing and reporting harmful pests. New TreeKeepers complete an eight-day professional certification course and join a network of over 1,800 internationally-respected volunteers. Once you complete the course and are certified, TreeKeepers are an egalitarian network – everyone can get involved right away. It is a commitment to taking responsibility for the care of our city, there are volunteering opportunities most weekends between April and October, and it is a great way to spend your weekends outdoors.

Birds in my Neighborhood® is taught by volunteers at Chicago Public Schools with the goal of fostering youth interest in the natural world. Openlands believes school gardens and birds can be the entrée to connect youth with a long-term passion for the environment, and Birds in my Neighborhood supports the observation of birds in students’ schoolyards and neighborhood blocks. Openlands is always looking for willing adults to help with Birds in my Neighborhood field trips and to assist this great program that is reaching 1500 students across Chicago.

TreePlanters Grants – Openlands believes we must engage and communicate with local residents who benefit most directly from the trees in their neighborhood. TreePlanters Grants facilitate community tree plantings, bringing neighbors together in the community goal of healthy trees. Grant applicants will identify a planting location and gather volunteers interested in helping. On planting day Openlands provides tools and training to all volunteers, and with help from TreeKeepers, will educate communities on best practices to keep trees healthy.

To learn more about these or any of Openlands’ conservation programs, please visit or contact