Longtime Highland Park resident Joyce O'Keefe recently received the 2014 Lake County Conservation Award from Conserve Lake County in recognition of her significant impact on the preservation of unique natural features during more than three decades.
"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.
O'Keefe chaired or co-chaired the Friends of the Forest Preserve committees that provided funding and leadership for promoting all of the forest district referendums campaigns during two decades. 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."
Part of the special value she brought to the referendum campaigns was her ability to mobilize support from a variety of people and organizations, officials said.
O'Keefe has also had a big impact on local projects. While serving as a city council member in Highland Park for 10 years, the community launched one of the first successful recycling programs in the county.
She played a key role in the Fort Sheridan project that eventually resulted in the transfer of 250 acres of U.S. Army property there to the Lake County Forest Preserve District. It is one of the few places in Illinois that offers public access to undeveloped Lake Michigan shoreline.
As a staff member of Openlands, she played a key 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.
The Lake County Conservation Award is a three-sided ceramic sculpture commissioned by Conserve Lake County from Grayslake artist Bob Stotts. Each side features symbolic elements of Lake County's natural heritage.
Established in 1995, Conserve Lake County is a nonprofit organization that serves the many people who desire to keep Lake County's land and water healthy for the well-being of people and wildlife.
The member-supported group has preserved more than 400 acres of open space and helps public and private property owners steward natural areas, farmland, and landscaped sites.
Visit www.conservelakecounty.org more information.