Mayor Rahm Emanuel has big plans for the Chicago River.
“Much like Lake Michigan is Chicago’s front yard, the Chicago River is our backyard, and should be an asset that people across the city enjoy, not avoid," Emanuel said in a statement.
Emanuel joined Environment Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson at Ping Tom Memorial Park in Chinatown to announce a $1 million EPA grant to help clean up the Chicago River, criticized in the past by the EPA and politicos for poor pollution and sanitation levels.
As part of the plan to spiffy up the river, the Chicago Park District will work with private sector partners to help build four new boathouses along the river as "anchors of future development."
The boathouses include: River Park Boat House, 5100 N. Francisco; Clark Park Boat House, 3400 N. Rockwell; Ping Tom Memorial Park Boat House, 300 W. 19th Street; and 28th & Eleanor Boat House, between Loomis and Fuller Streets on Eleanor.
The park district also will expand Ping Tom Park, and the Chicago Department of Transportation will expand trails along the river, Emanuel said.
"I want to make the river our next recreational frontier," Emanuel said. "The value of property along water improves by 20 percent."
When asked about the river's filth level, the mayor didn't appear too bothered.
"This has been an important highway for commerce," he said, adding that he believes neighbors will take a bigger interest in helping keep clean a more recreation-focused river.
"It starts with a vision," he said that includes biking and walkways.