Our Challenge

Whether we think of it or not, we interact with our natural environment every day.   The quality of the water we drink depends on the land from which it drains.  The food we eat relies on healthy topsoil and the presence of pollinators.  And who doesn’t feel a little overstressed, overworked, and over-digitized sometimes?   We crave enough green space to wander or perhaps even get lost for a while. 

Unfortunately, natural land in central Illinois has severely declined over the last few generations.  It may be hard to envision today, but the first settlers found a landscape exploding in diverse, colorful prairie broken only by the occasional grove of broadly spaced trees.  Area settler Eliza Farnham struggled to describe the beauty of it: 

"Spring mornings on the prairies!  I wish I could find the language that would convey to the mind of the reader an adequate idea of the deep joy… of this wonderful scene…  A vast ocean, teeming with life, redolent of sweet odors!"
- Life in Prairie Land (1846) 

Today, more than 99.99% of this prairie has disappeared.  With it, in many ways, has gone our natural heritage and ecological diversity.  We are all invested in preserving what is left and repairing what we can.

So, what can we do?

The ParkLands Foundation has been committed to bringing these landscapes back to life since 1967.  At ParkLands, we: 


Acquire land and manage conservation easements, striving for contiguous acreage along the Mackinaw River that benefits wildlife most

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Remove invasive species, monitor endangered or threatened plants and animals, minimize erosion into the river

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Plant trees, seed prairies, establish transitional riparian and woodland buffers


Maintain parking and trails for public access, implement biologist-supported management plans including prescribed burns

search (3)

Partner with local universities and naturalist programs who use our habitat to study what is here and how to protect it

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Spread the word about conserving our ecological history through community events and programs

At ParkLands, these efforts have been volunteer-driven since our inception.  In fact, we operated solely as volunteers for more than 30 years.  Even as we have grown to one full-time land steward and two part-time office staff, we still need your help to carry on the lasting legacies of countless individuals who have generously given their energy, talents, and resources for what we enjoy today.  You can help us ensure the ParkLands experience for future generations.


Why Give?

Our name can be misleading – while ParkLands offers more public recreational land than nearly all entities in McLean and Woodford counties, we are not a state or county park.  Unlike neighboring areas of similar size, voters across the upper Mackinaw corridor have turned down the creation of park, forest or conservation districts since the 1950s.  ParkLands was born to fill this gap with private initiative, a gap we still fill today.

In other words, we make our private preserves available to the public with no local tax revenue to support our efforts.  And while our preserves are free to enjoy, they are far from free to acquire, develop, and maintain. 

That’s where you come in.  We count on those who appreciate our preserves to share in the ongoing costs and to lend a hand.  Whether you can commit a legacy gift or a few hours on a Saturday, we need all who value conservation to join the effort.  Become a member.  Donate.  Volunteer.   There is something for everybody.

The truth is, if ParkLands wasn’t here to protect the Mackinaw corridor on behalf of the public, these natural areas would not exist.  We are the 4th oldest conservation land trust in the state and the only land trust in our region.  Our preserves would inevitably be privately owned, developed, and unavailable to the public, including access to the river.  It would be difficult to access the river at all.

Your tax-deductible memberships and donations ensure public enjoyment of wild places today and into the future.   It takes a community.

"Anybody can love the mountains, but it takes a soul to love the prairie."  – Willa Cather