- By Brette Bossick, Urban Rivers
- July 12, 2017
We did it. And by “we” I don’t mean just the members of our non-profit: I mean the countless community members, volunteers, donors and those who believed this would actually happen. It’s been a wild ride filled with permitting, planning and fundraising, but on June 10-11, 2017, Urban Rivers successfully installed 166 feet of Floating Garden in the Chicago River on the East side of Goose Island. The garden is located just outside of the Lincoln Park Whole Foods.
Four years ago, we set out to create a new destination for kayakers and pedestrians to connect with nature in the heart of Chicago. At the same time, there was a stronger need to provide habitat for the wildlife in and on the Chicago River. We want to give the fish and wildlife of the Chicago River the habitat they need to thrive. The primary goal of this project is to create effective and sustainable habitat for native plants and animals.
Our vision was supported by Chicago Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD). The water quality has improved in recent decades and is no longer the primary factor preventing the Chicago River from having healthy, optimal fish and wildlife populations. The primary problem now is lack of habitat. Aquatic wildlife requires structure and cover in their environment to survive. Currently, the channelized Chicago River offers neither.
To address this problem, our team and 50+ volunteers, some of whom traveled hours to help, installed a floating garden and planted over 1,500 specimens of 40 different native species, creating habitat for the plants and wildlife above and below the water’s surface. The installation was designed to foster a diversity of native species and provide habitat for local wildlife. Professional wildlife survey techniques will be employed to test the efficacy of this effort.
This initiative was organized by our dedicated Urban Rivers team through a successful Kickstarter campaign and grants from environment- and community-minded companies including Patagonia, Whole Foods Market and Subaru.
As a larger effort, we intend to rehabilitate the entire east side of Goose Island to serve as Chicago’s first urban wildlife sanctuary in the Chicago River. We are aligned with the Great Rivers Chicago theme of creating rivers as parks and believe there is mutual benefit to both humans and wildlife that can take place through turning the spotlight from unused infrastructure on the Chicago River to a peaceful destination.
Urban Rivers will continue to fundraise toward our goal of extending this park from 166 feet to a half mile by 2020. Looking beyond Chicago, this installation will be tested and refined to serve as a blueprint to be replicated in other urban rivers around the world. You can support Urban Rivers by donating or by signing up to volunteer.