African American Heritage Water Trail: Connecting Communities to Rivers

Join us to learn about this first-ever, cutting edge water trail designation and the programs that are empowering a generation of ambassadors who understand our past injustices and will hopefully help us learn how not to repeat them. Laura Barghusen, and Lillian Holden of Openlands will discuss the African American Heritage Water Trail on the Little Calumet River and Cal-Sag Channel between Beaubien Woods on Chicago’s south side, to the Village of Robbins. The trail flows through 180 years of African American History—sites and figures whose impact remains with us today. The water trail engages communities and connects them to the river by elevating and honoring this history.

Laura Barghusen is the Blueways Director at Openlands and works with local, regional, and state governments, communities, and other stakeholders to connect people to the waterways of northeastern Illinois through open space and water trail planning, biological monitoring of rivers and streams, legal and policy work, education, and events. Laura is a co-author of A Field Guide to the Freshwater Mussels of Chicago Wilderness. Laura holds a BA in History from the University of Chicago, an MS in Zoology from Miami University, and an MA in Environmental Geography from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Lillian Holden is the Education and Outreach Coordinator at Openlands and works with volunteers, teachers, and staff to build and inspire advocates for nature. Lillian brings skills to her work that she gained during an Ameri-Corp apprenticeship, and during her time as a program assistant with The Student Conservation Association. Lillian is CPR trained, restorative justice trained, and trauma-informed certified. She is also a certified Openlands TreeKeeper. Lillian holds an Associates Degree in Arts from the City Colleges of Chicago.Glenn Constant has worked in fish and aquatic habitat management and restoration for 33 years and currently manages the U S Fish and Wildlife Services’ Baton Rouge Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office. He holds a BS in Wildlife Management from University of Louisiana Lafayette and a MS in Fisheries Management from Louisiana State University. The majority of his career has been focused on river and floodplain management and developing a better understanding of the connection between aquatic species and the habitats they inhabit. He is a proud husband with 4 children and 4 grandchildren, an avid outdoorsman, and holds a strong sense of stewardship to conserve the lands and waters that provide hunters, fisherman, and all outdoor patrons with opportunity to experience the wonder and blessings of nature. To that end, he sees the future of successful conservation to be dependent on broad, diverse, and lasting partnerships among all interests that use and alter the lands and waters.
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