The beauty of Lake County has inspired many to find ways to preserve and protect our natural world. Conserve Lake County presents this award to individuals or organizations that have made a significant contribution to the conservation of Lake County's land and water. We hope this award will bring community recognition to those who have dedicated themselves to preservation, restoration, education, and advocacy and inspire others to do the same.
To commemorate our 20th Anniversary, the 2015 Conservation Award was presented to Conserve's founders. Vicky Ranney spoke on behalf of all the founders, sharing: "Conserve Lake County was founded 20 years ago as the Liberty Prairie Conservancy, a citizens' group to support the Liberty Prairie Reserve - then 2,500 acres of largely unprotected land in the center of Lake County...It was a mix of farmland, natural land in prairie, wetland and forest. It was different from a park or forest preserve. People lived in it. We were its defenders."
Joyce O'Keefe was presented with the 2014 Lake County Conservation Award in recognition of her significant impact on the preservation of natural resources in Lake County over 30 years. "Lake County residents would not have the remarkable natural resources they enjoy today without Joyce's hard work and commitment," said Carol Calabresa, Conserve Lake County board member and Lake County board member.
One of O'Keefe greatest lasting accomplishments was her role with Friends of the Forest Preserve, where she successfully promoted the forest preserves open space referendums. The district has acquired more than 11,000 acres, restored 15,863 acres of habitat, and completed 104 miles of trails since 1992.
"We were delighted to partner with Joyce in promoting the 2008 referendum that passed with 67 percent support," said Jim McConoughey, president of Conserve Lake County. "Through this award, we want to express the gratitude of the county for the dedication and service of people like Joyce. People who make an impact for nature are often unsung heroes in our community."
O'Keefe also served as a city council member in Highland Park for 10 years during which time the community launched one of the first successful recycling programs in the county and played a key role in the Fort Sheridan project that eventually resulted in the transfer of 250 acres of U.S. Army property to the Lake County Forest Preserve District. In her work at Openlands, she played a role in creating the 77-acre Lakeshore Preserve near Lake Forest. Openlands, a regional nonprofit conservation organization, acquired the property and is restoring the rare ravine habitat.
Barbara Turner spent most of her life in a beautiful woodland in Long Grove. This was first as a child on weekends and summers, then it was the place where she and her husband lived and raised their her own family.
Through Barbara's leadership, patience and persistence, that place is now the Reed-Turner Woodland, one of the first private properties to be preserved in Illinois by the Nature Conservancy. In addition to Nature Conservancy protection much of the woodland has been dedicated as an Illinois Nature Preserve, the strongest level of protection afforded to natural areas of the highest quality.
Barbara has also made a life-long commitment to mentoring and teaching others. Many of today's land stewards were inspired by her. She has been a pioneer in woodland restoration and stewardship and the Reed-Turner Woodland continues to be a research and learning lab for others.
The cabin is now owned by the Long Grove Park District and serves as a nature center and public gathering space for park district programs.
Barbara continues to live in Reed-Turner woodland in a house her parents built later in life. She walks the property often and awaits the rush of woodland ephemerals every spring.
We salute the life and work of Barbara Turner and her lasting legacy for all in Lake County.