With approximately 1,900 miles of public alleys, Chicago has one of the most extensive and important pieces of infrastructure of any city in the world. That’s approximately 3,500 acres of paved impermeable surface that provides an opportunity to better manage resources and improve the environment.Chicago’s Green Alley Handbook, 2010 | Chicago.gov
“Green infrastructure is a cost-effective, resilient approach to managing wet weather impacts that provides many community benefits.” EPA.gov
- downspout disconnection
- rainwater harvesting
- rain gardens
- planter boxes
- permeable pavements
- green streets and alleys
- green parking
- green roofs
- urban tree canopy
- land conservation
In 2014, I spent six months volunteering with the development team at Openlands, a land conservation nonprofit. It was a fantastic experience; Kaye and Sasha showed me how to run a mail campaign with volunteers, how to use DonorPerfect software, and how to plan a successful luncheon event.
While I was there, I made it a point to visit the organization’s most recent project, the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve on Lake Michigan. Located north of Chicago in Fort Sheridan, the Preserve reminded me of Presque Isle State Park in Erie, Pennsylvania, with its lush tree canopy and meandering walkways. I learned about invasive weed species and how removing them and planting native species instead could prevent the erosion of soil on steep sloping landscapes.
While I’ve looked everywhere for photos I took that day, I can’t find them anywhere! However, I’m not sure my iPhone photos would have done it justice. It’s the kind of place you need to visit in-person, so you can feel the coolness of the air under the trees, hear the busy sounds of birds and insects, and see the stunning lake-view vistas wrap around your periphery. My only regret was not visiting more often! Image: Openlands.org