The Lake Bluff Open Lands Association
is dedicated to the preservation and restoration
of open spaces and natural areas in and around
Lake Bluff, Illinois.

With no paid staff and only seasonal, student workers, we are an “almost” all volunteer organization. We work on Village, Park District, our own properties and on Conservation easements in and around the Village. Please contact us about any volunteering inquires.

We’re excited that we are able to manage over 200 acres of Lake Bluff, in 13 separate natural areas around town.

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.

Lake Bluff

Open Lands Association



Help us protect the natural beauty of Lake Bluff, Illinois by making  a donation.

We average in excess of 93 percent of our revenue spent on materials and activities directly related to preserving and restoring open lands in Lake Bluff.

Because we're a non-profit, donations to LBOLA are tax deductible (to the fullest extent of the law). We accept donations by check and Paypal.


Join us outdoors! Enjoy the fresh air and help preserve and restore our natural areas.

LBOLA’s accomplishments in protecting and restoring the natural areas around Lake Bluff are primarily the result of both student and adult workdays throughout the year.

Volunteer workdays are Saturdays and some Sundays from 9:00 a.m. to noon. Red Hat days are for ages 18+ using power tools. Check our Facebook page for updates.

 Lake Bluff School District 65 Restoration


Historical records reveal that the Prairie Preserve served as the back yard of a Green Bay Road estate.

It had never been farmed and never had drain tiles installed. Proposed for development along with the rest of the Belle Foret subdivision, LBOLA founder Carolyn Goetz discovered rare prairie plants; rattlesnake master, nodding ladies tresses and northern dropseed, indicating that the property was likely a remnant of earlier times and worthy of preservation.

LBOLA arranged a land swap between the developer and the Lake Bluff Park District, preserving this rare sliver of original Illinois prairie for future generations.


This preserve started it all. As a fitting tribute to our visionary founder, it's our only preserve named after an individual.

Come listen to the wind in the white pine forest, and sit for a spell on the observation deck. This wetland is a habitat for blue winged teal, wood duck, sora, snapping turtle, frogs, and other wildlife. It is also home to dozens of rare young bur oaks.

Wetlands help in water filtration, flood control and they recharge ground water during dry spells.


Locally known as Jensen Woods. The 80 acre site straddles the Lake Forest – Lake Bluff border.

Running along the length of the Skokie River, it connects LBOLA’s Skokie River Prairie Reserve on the north, to LFOLA’s Skokie River Nature Preserve. The Site includes spectacular old growth oak-hickory woodland, The Southern Grove, and prairie remnant including The Birch Prairie.

This site features a large grove of massive bur and white oaks estimated to be be over 220 years old, a small high quality prairie remnant known as The Birch Prairie.

 Originally designed as the back yard for the famed Kelley Estate on Green Bay Road, the landscape was designed by legendary Landscape Architect Jens Jensen who excavated the large kidney-shaped lake to match a smaller one next to Green Bay, and also lined banks of the Skokie River with Wisconsin Lannon Stone for a touch of class.


The Skokie River valley is a remnant of the
Ice-Age "Lake Chicago."

The prairie reserve is a 30 mile marsh known for waterfowl and rare wetland plants which once extended from Waukegan to Chicago.

In recent times, our Skokie River Prairie was drained and severely overtaken by buckthorn and other non-native species. Much has been done since 1995 to liberate the native species from suppression, and the results show dramatically as the native prairie plants spring back from long dormant seeds to retake their places in the sun.

The Skokie River Prairie connects with miles of Lake County Forest Preserve and Lake Forest Open Lands trails, making it a great place for hiking, and cross country skiing.


Located at the busiest corner in town, this site is enjoyed by thousands of visitors daily.

Rockland Wetlands is home to many amphibians including thousands of Western Chorus Frogs that make a riot of sound all spring, beautiful and wetland flora as well as some stately bur oaks. Despite being on high ground, this area is wet all year round indicating it may be spring fed.

The site was host to our 2010 Earth Day activities and benefitted from the planting of 800 wetland wildflowers, grasses, sedges, reeds and rushes.


The Lake Bluff Beach is a central focus for the Lake Bluff community.

The construction of the upper prairie with its raised timber structure and widely spaces steps provided a graceful transition between the beach and the nasty concrete retaining wall of the newly installed beach road.

Our upper prairie is not quite mature with increasing diversity provided by successive plantings by LBOLA volunteers and Lake Bluff Middle School students on Outdoor Education projects.

The lower sand prairie was planted at the turn of the century based on a plant list inspired by the sand prairie at Illinois Beach State Park in Zion. It includes the midwest’s only native cactus – prickly pear cactus. In a wonderful new development, Marram Grass, once the dominant vegetation on Lake Michigan sand dunes, is escaping across Lake Bluff beach!


This mature oak woodland fell on hard times as development in the area changed hydrology on the site leading to the decline of older oaks.

A re-forestry project in 2001 resulted in 19 young oaks and hickories beginning a new generation, followed by many seedlings that are finally able to access sunlight following a hugely successful clearing and regular burning of the once-choked site. Buckthorn, multiflora rose, honeysuckle and European highbush cranberry have been largely banished – replaced by native wet savanna vegetation. And LOTS of trillium!

The historic “alley” down Lakeland Avenue consists of hemlock trees, well south of their native range, which once announced one’s entrance to the Stanley F.ield estate.

Moffett Woods consists of property donated to LBOLA by Stephen and Ann Bent and Shelby Yastrow in the early 1990s. It remains the only property owned by LBOLA as our other managed preserves are publicly owned.


Twenty years ago a couple of neighbors got together to save Lake Genevieve and the surrounding 19 lots from development.

Neglected for years it became a dumping ground for everything from broken concrete to household junk. The circle of concerned people grew and today Lake Genevieve is owned by Shields Township and managed by LBOLA.

Serious restoration work was started by LBOLA in July of 2008. Since then, 75 volunteers have given a total of over 1500 hours of labor. Today, it is about 80% complete and has a wood chip trail and 2 bridges.

Lake Genevieve is frequently the location for High School Biology field work that earns students extra credit. This site now boasts a beautiful wetland and scores of mature oaks that some how survived the last 200 years. The first woodland burn was completed in the fall of 2010 and this Spring should be spectacular! So, come and take a leisurely stroll and soak in the beauty and uniqueness of this preserve.


The old oak and hickory woodland has experienced many changes recently.

Essentially the front yard of what is now Lake Bluff Elementary School, site has experienced dumping and massive invasion of a number of unwanted weed species.

Our community cleared the site of unwanted brush and trash. LBOLA has built a wood chip path through the woods, built an outdoor classroom, seeded natives, conducted prescribed burns and planted 1,000 native woodland trees.

The name of the preserve itself has morphed from Sullivan Woods, to Central Woods to it’s current, Dwyer Woods, named after the original Lake Bluff settlement.

In addition to mature white, red and bur oaks, the site is home to many shagbark hickories, including a surprising number of rare young shagbarks, assuring a wonderful future here for one of our more hard-pressed native tree species.


The decision to place a conservation easement on a property is strictly a voluntary one.

The restrictions of the easement, once set in place, usually “run with the land” and are binding on all future owners of the property (in other words, the restrictions are perpetual).

The primary purpose of a conservation easement is to protect land from development. Lands for which conservation easements may be desirable include agricultural land, timber resources, and/or other valuable natural resources such as wildlife habitat, clean water, clean air, or scenic open space.

Protection is achieved primarily by separating the right to subdivide and build on the land from the other rights of ownership. The landowner who gives up these “development rights” continues to privately own and manage the land.

Perhaps more importantly, the landowner has contributed to the public good by preserving the conservation values associated with their land for future generations.

Although a conservation easement prohibits certain uses by the landowner, such an easement does not make the land public.

LBOLA conforms to the Land Trust Alliance Standards and Practices.

LBOLA Easements are known by the last name of the donor. Our donors included: Bryan, Zenni, Schuler, Keller, O’Neil, Crab Tree Farm, and Dahlman.


At the northern edge of the LB train station parking lot, the Robery McClory Bike Path heads north through a blaze of prairie color.

Our plantings, at the intersection of Blodgett Ave. and the parking lot, are mature, diverse and colorful.

We continue to increase the size of the planted area each year.


Following the demolition of an old wooden footbridge spanning Ravine Park at Gurney Ave,  Goetz spearheaded a drive to replace the bridge with the current modern steel span.

Elmer Vliet made significant financial contributions and the installation included new native landscape material – now quite mature.

LBOLA’s management efforts have included the planting of thousands of woodland natives, occasional seeding, limited burning and ongoing management of invasive weeds and log-jams in the waterway.


Waving tall grasses, wildflower color and prairie heritage, the Bike Path Prairie welcomes visitors and residents to Lake Bluff.

The prairie stretches all the way from the water plant to the viaduct into town.

LBOLA was fortunate to find a receptive Lake County Dept. of Transportation agreeable  to our 1999 request that the newly constructed bikepath and underpass be planted with native prairie species.

   Lake Bluff Open Lands Association has recently restored a parcel of land acquired by Lake Bluff School District 65.

This parcel is located at the northwest corner of Green Bay Road and West Washington Avenue.


    The lot was greatly overgrown with buckthorn, but thanks to our donors, and volunteers, the native seed bank now has a chance to grow, contributing to the restoration of a proper woodland.



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Lake Bluff

Open Lands Association

P.O. Box 449   |   Lake Bluff, IL 60044   |   (224)-436-1512 |   info@lbola.org