NEIGHBORHOODS AND COMMUNITY GROUPS
Healthy ecosystems are not just large swaths of land in rural parts of the region. Conservation is equally vital within neighborhoods and communities. Community open spaces, parks, public and home gardens, street trees, and green infrastructure provide:
- Places for recreation
- Places to grow food
- Spaces to meet and connect with neighbors and celebrate neighborhood culture
- Places to soak up rainwater and filter out pollutants before it reaches creeks and the Mississippi River
- Refuge for a diversity of plants and animals
- Balance from the heating effects of buildings and asphalt
- A boost to property values
- Climate Change adaptation – helping to reduce climate impacts in communities
We provide the following programs for neighborhoods and groups looking to incorporate sustainable and inclusive conservation practices in their community.
Lots of Love (LoL)
We support the transformation of vacant lots into gardens, habitat, and pocket parks for neighborhood health, vitality, and enjoyment.
Vacant lots affect neighborhood stability and pride. They cost communities to maintain, become unsafe dumping grounds, demoralize the neighborhood, and ultimately discourage investment. Studies have shown that cleaning up and reusing vacant lots can positively impact the neighborhood’s vibrancy and vitality of the greater community.
How We Help
HeartLands Conservancy provides support for gardens and vacant lot transformations with environmental benefits in the following ways:
- We partner with people in the community and work with the city, village, or public agency to lease or acquire the land long-term for use by the community.
- We can develop plans for the property in partnership with surrounding neighbors and organization(s).
- We provide liability insurance and manage paperwork associated with these properties.
- We have a tool library for LoL participants to borrow and share with other LoL participants.
- We sometimes fiscally sponsor an organized group that needs to use our nonprofit status to accept donations and grants for capital improvements.
- We can connect LoL groups with technical experts in vegetable gardening, horticulture, biodiversity, conservation, and other topics.
- We also provide scholarships for LoL lead stewards to participate in the University of Illinois Master Gardener program.
- On rare occasions, HeartLands Conservancy will undertake lot transformation and maintenance by our staff.
HeartLands Conservancy can also accept donated land for enrollment in the Lots of Love program. Before we agree to acquire, accept, or lease land, we make sure that:
- It provides a public benefit;
- It meets the terms of our insurance and risk policies;
- It will be maintained long-term by the site steward or organized group; and
- The surrounding neighbors have been consulted on the use of and plans for the property.
Coming Soon: Lots of Love application
Volunteers are vital to the long-term stewardship of a public property. Friends groups are dedicated volunteers who love parks and natural areas and care deeply about keeping these sites healthy. Friends groups work on trail maintenance, invasive species management, and general site stewardship. HeartLands Conservancy supports friends groups by providing tools, supplies, and technical support and advertising and promoting volunteer workdays. In some cases we are able to act as a fiscal sponsor so the group may receive grants.
If you are interested in volunteering with a friends group see Get Involved to learn about upcoming volunteer days. If you are interested in starting a Friends Group for a park or natural area you love or if you already lead a friends group and would like to become part of our outreach network please contact info@heartlandsconservancy.
Funding and Technical Assistance
HeartLands Conservancy has helped numerous communities obtain funding for land acquisitions, park and trail development, stormwater management, forestry, and green infrastructure.
Beyond funding assistance, HeartLands Conservancy’s team has decades of technical expertise in land acquisitions and deal-making, parks and trails planning and implementation, watershed and stormwater planning and implementation, bicycle and pedestrian planning, land use planning, master planning, neighborhood planning, ecological evaluation and management, community forestry, and more! We often serve as consultants to communities or as partners with the private sector or governments on specific initiatives.
Learn more about our work in communities.
Contact our staff for more information
Trees provide numerous benefits to neighborhoods, including stormwater control, increased property values, climate solutions, and more. Neighborhoods and community groups can partner with HeartLands Conservancy on community forestry efforts by volunteering as Tree Stewards or initiating a community forestry project in your community.
Green infrastructure is a lower-cost, natural option for stormwater management that can be integrated with traditional community infrastructure. We typically work with public agencies to increase green infrastructure in the region. We sometimes have funding to cost-share green infrastructure in neighborhoods and private property to decrease water pollution and flash flooding.
The Conservation@Home program is designed to assist private and public landowners with creating habitat and beneficial landscapes.