What happened this spring on Chicago's Rivers? - Metropolitan Planning Council

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What happened this spring on Chicago's Rivers?

Image courtesy MBA Photography

May 15 Boat Tour along the North Branch of the Chicago River

It’s not even summer yet (officially), and there has already been a lot of action on Chicago’s Rivers. Part of the goal of Great Rivers Chicago is not only to advocate for policy changes and actions to make our rivers more inviting, living and productive, but to also get our hands dirty and make on-the-ground change on the waterways as well as explore and learn.

Comcast Cares Day: Doing our part to improve the health of our waterways

In early May, MPC helped organize a clean-up event for our partner, Comcast. As part of the May 4 Comcast Cares Day festivities, more than 30 volunteers from Comcast and MPC engaged in two clean-up activities along the North Branch of the Chicago River. First was trash removal along the river by North Avenue near Goose Island. More than 50 bags of trash were collected from that site alone. The second location was the Goose Island Overlook where volunteers engaged in both trash pick-up along with maintenance of the plants in the raised beds, including weeding and pruning. Clean-up of these sites makes an immediate difference to the habitat and water quality of the river and definitely makes the river system more inviting for recreation and access. MPC is proud to work with a forward thinking company like Comcast on Great Rivers Chicago. Comcast truly understands the economic and community development potential, striving to be stewards of their neighborhoods so that all residents and visitors can enjoy an experience on or near our waterways.

River Day: A chance for the Chicago community to pitch in and help out

Volunteers across Chicago participated in Friends of the Chicago River’s May 11 River Day. Staff and Research Assistants from MPC cleaned up trash and weeded at several locations along the rivers, including Ping Tom Park in Chinatown and Beaubien Woods along the Little Calumet River on Chicago’s South Side. At Beaubien Woods, multiple bags of trash were collected. The group also removed garlic mustard, a highly invasive plant species. These changes made an immediate difference in the understory of the forest preserve. In prior years, MPC led planning efforts and charrettes to craft a vision for improvements to neighborhood access and use of both the river and Beaubien Woods. It is great to see efforts continue to advance under the leadership of the Forest Preserves, whose team is focusing on community engagement and increasing accessibility of this asset. We look forward to continue participating throughout the rest of the year.

MPC North Branch Boat Tour: An opportunity to learn about what's happening on the river

On May 15, MPC, along with our partners and supporters, set sail along the North Branch of the Chicago River. It was an opportunity to enjoy each other’s company and hear about all the exciting developments and activities that have been occurring along the waterway. It was the first time in several years that MPC had conducted a tour of the North Branch, so there was a lot to catch up on. Attendees heard from a range speakers that discussed the impact of the revised Chicago River Design Guidelines on future development, design and community engagement to transform part of the river into the Wild Mile (a new park inside the river that includes floating gardens and boardwalks), improvements to the Riverwalk, and new developments like the Salt District and Lincoln Yards that will have a significant impact on accessibility along the riverfront. This event was also part of Chicago Community Trust’s On the Table conversations. Comments and conversations fueled by this tour became part of a Memo to Mayor to let the new administration know how they would like to continue to see the river engaged and activated.

Dragon Boat Race: Getting competitive for the good of the rivers

On June 1, MPC partnered with friends from Robinson Engineering and Friends of the Chicago River to participate in the 4th annual Chicago Southland Dragon Boat Festival. Our team spent the day at the Blue Island SEPA Waterfall & Park. Overall, our team came in 8th place, with our race times all coming in at about 1 minute. We had a fantastic time enjoying the music, food, and competition. With more than 20 teams participating, this was the Festival’s biggest year. We’re proud to be part of this great event showcasing the recreational potential of our region’s Rivers! 

We are not the only ones who have been busy this spring. Check out our blog series on the local and community based organizations that are working on their river activations.

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