Our Mission

The purpose of this association is the protection, preservation, restoration and management of open spaces and natural areas in Lake Bluff, IL through the use of established land-management practices, sound conservation techniques and educational activities for Village residents.

The History of Lake Bluff Open Lands Association

1981 – 1990

LBOLA was formed in 1981 by Carolyn Goetz for the purpose of saving a small wetland and white pine plantation from being developed into a housing subdivision.

Carolyn’s success led to the eventual purchase of the property by the Lake Bluff Park District and what is now known as the Carolyn Goetz Wetlands Preserve.

1990 – 2000

Soon after the land was purchased, we replaced the bridge crossing Ravine Park at Gurney Avenue which was primarily spearheaded and funded by LBOLA and the Elmer Vliet family.

LBOLA also planted a native lakefront prairie habitat and cottonless cottonwoods at the Lake Bluff Beach.

Prior to leaving Lake Bluff in 1996, Carolyn and LBOLA fought hard to eventually gain village permission to restore 35 acres to the south of the new water plant located just west of Highway 176, 1/4 mile west of Green Bay Road. The area is now known as the Skokie River Preserve.

It’s a “restored prairie,” in the sense that the native forbes (wildflowers) and tall grasses now growing there grew from suppressed plants or germinated from seeds that had lain dormant in the soil for several decades.

Our clearing of non native shrubs and weeds exposed them to the sun so they could finally germinate and again retake their place in an environment where prairie and savanna habitat is constantly shrinking. Best estimates are that only 0.1% of the ‘Prairie State’ is recognizable today as either prairie or savanna. In this regard, we’re quite proud to be able include our Skokie Preserve to the additions column.

In 1998, with the Skokie River Prairie well underway, LBOLA turned its attention to another long-neglected parcel that separated LBOLA’s Skokie River Prairie from Lake Forest Open Lands’ properties. The Lake County Forest Preserve’s “Lake Bluff Site” is an 80 acre parcel purchased jointly in the mid-1980s by the Forest Preserve District and the state’s Water Resources Department for the construction of a huge floodwater retention basin.

2000 – 2010

With the site’s future in doubt, LBOLA still moved ahead with restoration activities. We had about 15 acres cleared for prairie restoration as well as many more acres of magnificent old-growth bur oak savanna “liberated” from the invasive non-native understory that threatened its future.

In 2010 the Skokie River Prairie was registered with the Illinois Nature Preserve Commission as an Illinois Land and Water Reserve.

2010 – 2020

In 2017 LBOLA restored eastern Dwyer Woods with aid from the Lake Bluff Elementary School, is was a 5 day effort. Thanks to resident volunteers and our interns , what was a dark impenetrable patch of buckthorn is now restored woodland.

In 2019 & 2020 LBOLA cleared a stand of aggressive Poplar from the Prairie Preserve @ Belle Foret Drive. Restoring it to a prairie-savannah ecosystem.