Descriptive inventory for the Open Lands Project records, 1960-1999

Open Lands Project records

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Descriptive inventory for the Open Lands Project records, 1960-1999

Prepared by Mary Uhl, 1982; updated by Bob Blythe, 2018; ed.. by Julie Wroblewski, 2019.
Please address questions to:
Chicago History Museum, Research Center
1601 North Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60614-6038
Instructions for accessing this collection

Collection Overview +/-

Title: Open Lands Project records, 1960-1999 (inclusive)
Creators: Open Lands Project (Chicago, Ill.)
Illinois. Department of Conservation
Openlands Project (Chicago, Ill.)
Welfare Council of Metropolitan Chicago.
Corlands, Inc.
Peterson, Gunnar A. (Gunnar Arthur), 1915-1976
Short, Jeffery R., Jr.
Dates: 1960-1999 (inclusive)
Accession numbers: M1976.0009
Bib number: 00066638
Call number: MSS Lot O
Size: 65 linear ft. (121 boxes and 1 volume)
Language of material:Collection is written in English.

Provenance statement:

Gift of the Open Lands Project, 1970s and 1999 (accession #: M1976.0009, M1977.0016, M1977.0045, 1999.0086).

Terms governing use:

Copyright may be retained by the creators of items, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law, unless otherwise noted.

Please cite this collection as:

Open Lands Project records (Chicago History Museum), plus a detailed description, date, and series/box/folder/call number of a specific item.

Additional Materials +/-

Related material:

Related materials at Chicago History Museum, Research Center, include the Open Lands Project records from Gunnar Peterson's office, the Open Lands Project photograph collection (1985.0393), the Open Lands Project photographs from Gunnar Peterson's collection (2007.0066.2-50), and various publications by/about the organization, later known as the Openlands Project.

Separated material:

One half box of photographs was transferred to the Visual Materials collection and named the Open Lands Project photograph collection (1985.0393). Subjects of these photographs include OLP staff members, the Fox River Valley, Illinois-Michigan Canal, Illinois Prairie Path, Goose Lake Prairie, People-in-the-Park-Jackson Park, and the Lincoln Heritage Canoe Trail. One box of an incomplete run of the Open Lands Project Newsletter was transferred to the Library collection. Also transferred to the Library were scattered issues of the Bulletin of the Lake Michigan Federation. These are cataloged separately.

Collection Summary +/-

Correspondence, minutes, reports, news releases, and other records of the Open Lands Project (OLP) concerning the conservation of land for public purposes in the Chicago area and other parts of Illinois. Contains information on conservation, recreation, and other environmental issues impacting lakeshore, dunes, prairies, bogs, trails, parks, and water resources. Includes materials from other organizations and from city, state, and federal governments. Includes indexed files relating to OLP projects, research and studies (alphabetized A-N; O-Z not donated to CHS); board meeting minutes (1970s-early 1990s); meeting minutes and documentation from Corlands, the land purchasing arm of OLP (late 1970s-early 1990s); miscellaneous administrative and project files and financial information; Gunnar Peterson and Jeffrey Short files.

Biographical/Historical Note +/-

The Open Lands Project (OLP) started in 1963 as a committee of the Welfare Council of Metropolitan Chicago. By 1968, the project had grown to the point where it was incorporated as an independent, not-for-profit organization. From the beginning, the major concern of the organization has been the “preservation and protection of open and natural land for conservation, recreational and scientific purposes.” Toward this end, Open Lands has served as a coordinating agency for conservation efforts in the greater Chicago area. Open Lands formed a separate entity, Corlands, in 1978 to provide technical assistance on land acquisition and preservation to governments and private groups. Corlands is also able to purchase lands to ensure their preservation.

The Open Lands Project has been instrumental in the success of many conservation projects in Illinois, including the preservation of the 3000 acre Goose Lake Prairie, Illinois’ largest remaining tract of wild prairie land; acquisition of the 680-acre Beall Woods in Southern Illinois by the State Department of Conservation; restoration of the abandoned Illinois and Michigan Canal and Towpath as a recreation site; and establishment of a 27-mile Prairie Path in DuPage County. Open Lands was also active in supporting the preservation of Thorn Creek Woods, the Peacock Prairie, and the Gensburg-Markham Prairie, and in the campaign to make the Indiana Dunes a National Lakeshore.

The Open Lands Project has often taken a stand on controversial issues related to land use in the city of Chicago. The Project opposed the enlargement and rebuilding of McCormick Place after a fire in 1966. Also out of concern for Chicago’s lakefront, the Project published an analysis in 1968 which was highly critical of the proposed construction of an airport in Lake Michigan. The Project has also spoken out against building public schools on Chicago Park District lands.

In 1969, the Open Lands Project formed its Environmental Education Program in order to make conservation information procedures available to interested citizens. Through this program, the OLP cooperated with the Chicago Board of Education in developing environment-oriented instruction in the public schools by providing materials and training sessions for teachers and volunteers.

Also in 1969 the Open Lands Project began a formal Land Advocacy Program designed to provide legal advice and planning expertise to citizen groups, public agencies, and individual property owners. It continues, however, to serve more as an advisor than as an initiator of activities concerned with land conservation.

Instrumental in directing the OLP’s activities and policies were Jeffrey R. Short, Jr., who served as chairman of the OLP committee of the Welfare Council and later as President of the independent organization until 1972, and Gunnar Peterson, the Executive Director of OLP from 1963 until his retirement in 1975. Rutherford Platt, a staff attorney with the OLP, served as Program Director for the Land Advocacy Program. His publication, Open Land in Urban Illinois: Roles of the Citizen Advocate (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1971), described some of the experiences as well as the techniques of the program. Mrs. Lee Botts, the first Director of the Environmental Education Program, became director of the Lake Michigan Federation when it was organized as a division of the Open Lands Project in 1970; in 1971, the Federation became a separate entity. (The records of the Lake Michigan Federation are located at the University of Illinois at Chicago's Special Collections and University Archives.)

Catalog Subject Headings +/-

Conservation of natural resources--Illinois
Land use--Illinois
National parks and preserves--Illinois
National parks and preserves--Indiana
Open spaces--Illinois
Public lands--Illinois
Peterson, Gunnar A.--(Gunnar Arthur)--1915-1976
Short, Jeffery R., Jr.
Corlands, Inc.
Illinois. Department of Conservation.
Open Lands Project (Chicago, Ill.)--Archives
Openlands Project (Chicago, Ill.)
Welfare Council of Metropolitan Chicago
Chicago (Ill.)--Politics and government--20th century
Chicago Metropolitan Area (Ill.)--20th century
Chicago Suburban Area (Ill.)--20th century
Goose Lake Prairie State Park (Ill.)
Illinois and Michigan Canal (Ill.)
Illinois--Politics and government--20th century
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore (Ind.)
Lincoln Heritage Canoe Trail (Ill.)
Prairie Path (Ill.)

Organization and Arrangement of Collection +/-

The collection is arranged in six series.

Click on heading to view series description.

Series I. Administration Files, 1964-1995 (boxes 1-7, 76-81)
Series II. General Operating Files, 1960-1994 (Boxes 8-17, 81-96)
Series III. Project Files, 1961-1987 (Boxes 18-59, 96-117)
Subseries 1. Environmental Education, 1963-1987 (Boxes 18-26, 96)
Subseries 2. Land Advocacy and Conservation Projects, 1963-1974 (Boxes 27-40)
Subseries 3. Topical Files, 1961-1985 (Boxes 41-53, 97-117)
Subseries 4. Legislation and Legal Action, 1963-1980 (Box 54, 117)
Subseries 5. Counties, 1963-1976 (Boxes 55-57)
Subseries 6. Cities and Towns, 1966-1974 (Boxes 58-59)
Series IV. Related Organizations, 1963-1974 (Boxes 60-70)
Subseries 1. Illinois Organizations (Boxes 60-68)
Subseries 2. Non-Illinois Organizations (Boxes 69-70)
Series V. Newsclippings, ca. 1963-1989 (Boxes 71-75, 118, volume 1)
Series VI. Corlands (Corporation for Public Lands), 1978-1995 (boxes 119-121)

About This Finding Aid +/-

Creation: Finding aid encoded by Katherine Tucker Paterson using Oxygen XML editor, 2017; revised by Bob Blythe, 2018; ed. by Julie Wroblewski, 2019.
Language: Finding aid is written in English.
Other Finding Aids: Finding aid also submitted to the Explore Chicago Collections portal.
Processing Note:The 1999.0086 materials were processed separately from the rest of the collection in 2018 and are primarily contained in boxes 81-96; a small amount of materials were incorporated into existing folders.
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