When Jerry Adelmann walks along the trail at the Lockport Prairie Nature Preserve, he feels a sense of calm. He thinks about his family -- six generations of Lockport residents dating back to 1842. He breathes in the quiet wind rustling through the grassland that is home to countless plant and animal species.
“I feel connected to that place in special ways, my roots are deep there,” he said. Jerry envisions a future where a strong culture of conservation means no one in the Chicago region has to live more than a few minutes from green spaces and the many benefits they bring.
Connecting all residents in the region through a web of green is a mission Adelmann has spent decades working toward, not only as President and CEO of Openlands, but also as a resident and supporter of the region’s natural spaces.
“Our natural resources are critical to the resilience and sustainability of the region. They are an integral part of our metropolitan fabric,” he said, listing assets that range from the tourism dollars brought in by Lake Michigan to the healthy food produced on the region’s agricultural land.
“What we have outside our doors is so spectacular in terms of natural beauty, ecological diversity, and systems served,” he said. “We have to take care of nature because it won’t be able to take care of itself.”
In a future with challenges of development and climate change, he said it will be important to implement ON TO 2050’s strategies for targeting key areas for conservation and promoting green infrastructure and sustainable development.
To reach these goals, Adelmann said residents and stakeholders need to value the natural spaces all around them as part of one system not fragmented by municipal boundaries. “What ties us all together?”, he asked. “Well, our rivers, our streams, our habitats and our natural resources do.”
And if anyone needs help remembering that, take a minute to enjoy the natural space around you. “When you get outside, you feel calm, you feel relief from the stress of life in a large metropolitan area,” Jerry said. “It opens up your mind and your imagination in a way that only natural areas can.”