ParkLands Foundation was chartered in 1967 as a private, non-profit corporation under Illinois law. The Foundation had two goals, according to the brochure: The long-range goal was to provide "adequate outdoor recreational and educational opportunity for ourselves, our children, and our children's children." The short-range goal was acquisition of suitable land or "land which can be made suitable through reforestation and other designed plantings." This movement was part of a wider "environmental awareness that stimulated citizens to action [and] part of a national movement whose roots reach back a century or more" (Wyman, Introduction, ParkLands).

The first Board of Directors was comprised of Loring Merwin, Clarence Ropp, Arlo Bane, Adlai Rust, and Lafayette Funk. A major influence on Merwin was William Rutherford, leader of the privately held Forest Park Foundation in Peoria. The first project accomplished by ParkLands Foundation was acquisition of 480 acres plus options to buy 800 more along the Mackinaw River eighteen miles west of Bloomington. This acquisition was turned over to the State of Illinois.

In the late 1980s, the membership and goals of the ParkLands Foundation were reevaluated and redirected. By the 1990s, many of the members included schoolchildren, professors, farmers, and office workers--a sharp turn toward democratization. Instead of acquiring land to turn over to governmental entities, ParkLands managed its own properties. The environmental and social context changed as well. Restorative ecology was becoming more popular nationally.

See Mark Wyman's ParkLands: A History for in-depth research and analysis of the evolution of the ParkLands Foundation.

The ParkLands Foundation Collection consists primarily of documents and newspaper clippings related to the organization of the Foundation and of meeting minutes and newsletters concerning the various projects taken on by the Foundation. ParkLands: A History by Mark Wyman in Folders 2 and 3 provide pertinent information of the Foundation through 2000.