Each year the Austin Green Team members are guests at the luncheon of one of their sponsors, the OpenLands organization. On Friday, October 31, 2008, Openlands held its luncheon at the Fairmont Chicago Hotel in downtown Chicago. Over 700 people were in attendance for the event whose keynote speaker was Bruce Katz, vice president at the Brookings Institution and founding director of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program. Co-chairs were Shaun and Andrew Block.

Openlands is one of the nation’s oldest and most successful conservation organizations, dedicated to saving and preserving land in the metropolitan region. Openlands has helped protect more than 50,000 acres of land in hundreds of separate projects for parks, public recreation and natural habitat restoration. (Source: Openlands brochure)

The Conservation Leadership Award recipient this year was George A. Ranney, Jr. CEO of Chicago Metropolis 202, a business-based organization formed by the Commercial Club of Chicago to improve the Chicago region’s global competitiveness. With his wife Vicky, he developed Prairie Crossing, one of the nation’s first conservation communities.

Openlands Executive Director Gerald W. Adelmann talked about the history of the organization as a slide presentation was shown on the two jumbo screens. Their future plans include 12 new gardens to be located in Chicago’s public schools and a community garden planned for the Englewood community on Chicago’s South Side. Austin Green Team President Mary Perry invited AWN to the luncheon as their guest. Member Vera Watson ordered bus transportation and everyone traveled together. Openlands members warmly welcomed the Austin Green Team, and after the luncheon, everyone had an opportunity to take home fancy glass bottle centerpieces. Traveling with the Green Team turned out to be fun-filled day. Members told jokes and interesting stories as we returned to the West Side.

The Austin Green Team is devoted to preserving and enhancing public spaces and, with the help of organizations like Openlands, the Austin community is being changed, one block at a time.