THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT

Driehaus Grantee Openlands a "Keeper of the Trees"

June, 2017

Openlands protects land, water, and trees and believes in preserving wide, open spaces to “provide natural habitat and to give visitors a sense of the vast prairies, woodlands, and wetlands that were here before the cities.” The Driehaus Foundation believes that trees, parks, and greenspace are essential in urban environments to promote health, community, and harmony. Research shows trees in urban areas prevent flooding, decrease energy costs, increase property values, and help reduce stress.

Openlands has been a Driehaus Foundation grantee since 1993, a reflection of our founder’s appreciation and deep understanding of the importance of nature in urban settings.

In The Lorax Dr. Seuss wrote, “I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.”

The Openlands TreeKeepers program is the voice for Chicago’s trees. The program trains a dedicated network of volunteers to help plant and maintain trees in neighborhoods across Chicago. Volunteers attend eight classes that cover tree biology, soils, tree identification, pruning, selection, planting and mulching, and pests and diseases. TreeKeepers promise to volunteer 25 hours a year and adopt a tree in their neighborhood. The program is the only one of its kind in Illinois.

Openlands also “grants” trees to neighborhoods in need through the TreePlanters grant program. Neighbors come together to apply for a “tree grant,” typically between 10 to 40 trees. Openlands conducts a site visit where tree expects survey the area and test the soil, then make their tree recommendation. Once approved, residents recruit their neighbors to facilitate a neighborhood tree planting day. Openlands returns with everything from gloves to shovels and of course the trees. Neighbors will be joined by TreeKeepers from across the city who come to lend a hand with the planting. It’s like a block party with trees!

Chicago residents interested in greening their neighborhoods can apply for a tree grant here.

From left to right: Julie Larson, Jennifer Alving, Shirley Davis, and Sasha Doyle-Weiss

Photos: Volunteers and Openlands staff at a tree planting in the Washington Park neighborhood. Credit: Driehaus Foundation

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