Cynthia Winter

Openlands Leadership Circle member, Cynthia Winter heads her own architecture firm in Chicago, Cynthia Winter Architects, LLC, and she is a member of the Openlands Community Greening Committee. She has been actively supporting Openlands since 1995.

Below, Cynthia shares some of her thoughts about Openlands' work and nature in the Chicago region.

What draws you to the work of the Community Greening Committee?

I really love the hands-on nature of the work. I am eternally happy being outdoors, and the work of the committee that especially interests me ranges from urban agriculture to tree planting.

At a young age I moved from the city to Lake County and was constantly outside. I still look for the early emergence of spring blooms like dogtooth violets and trilliums in the forest. I used to pass a grove of hickory trees on my way home from school and would eat their nuts. I grew up playing in nearby ravines and now bike along the trails near my parents’ home. Nature was so accessible to me in those times, and connecting to nature was easy. I feel kids these days don’t have quite the same opportunities to connect with nature, and that is why I applaud the work of Openlands.

Openlands is helping to build these connections.

Why do you feel it’s important to support Openlands as a donor and volunteer?

I really love that Openlands has such a broad reach in the region. Openlands is also a great connector and cares about open spaces for everyone throughout the region. From Midewin and Hackmatack to small school gardens, Openlands cares about all those spaces. Also Openlands is proactive, not reactive. The leaders at Openlands are incredibly smart and this forward thinking approach is an incredibly efficient way to get things done, which has proven true time and time again.

I am also impressed by the leadership role that Openlands plays in the protection of our urban forest. I have learned so much more about our work to protect and plant trees throughout the city and how Openlands is able to expand its reach by teaching TreeKeepers is very exciting. It is still on my to-do list to take the TreeKeepers course one day!

Do you have a favorite project at Openlands?

Because of my childhood growing up in the forests of Lake County, I’d have to say the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve. I used to follow the muddy ravine pathways eastward to the lake so today I am especially happy to see the ravine restoration that Openlands created and the new paths plus the adjacent bike route.

I am also excited about the Building School Gardens program. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to be able to attend several ribbon cuttings at various schools, including some in neighborhoods where my parents and grandparents lived in Chicago. It has been a great way to personally connect with the program. Each garden is so different, and the small details each school has chosen make a huge difference in getting the kids to be excited about being outside.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I spend as much time as possible in the parks and on my bicycle along the lake and through the forest trail pathways. Being outdoors connects me to a time in my youth, and in turn, makes me feel young again!


Learn more about how you can join the Openlands Leadership Circle.