Mayor Emanuel Unveils New Vision for Chicago-Area Rivers

Could you imagine taking a dip in the Chicago River alongside the boat tours and kayakers? How about running or jogging along an overhead trail? That's part of the new vision for Chicago-area rivers. 

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s new “Our Great Rivers” project aims to overhaul the Calumet River, Chicago River, and Des Plaines River to make the waterways productive and inviting living spaces by 2040. 

"The idea 20 years, 10 years ago, that you would see people on the river running and biking was not even imaginable," Emanuel said Wednesday.

Over the last 18 months, the Metropolitan Planning Council says it talked to more than 6,000 people in the city and suburbs about the vision for the rivers.

"They said more productive, more jobs and businesses, more and more diverse recreational opporunities," said council member John Ellis. "Bring tourism to the nieghborhoods and restore habitat and water quality." 

Initial renderings of the project show the planned Riverview Bridge, which will provide bicycle and pedestrian access. 

The mayor’s office will join the Metropolitan Planning Council and shareholders Wednesday to announce more than two dozen goals under the “Our Great Rivers” initiative. 

Other additions include a continuous riverfront trail system to connect communities with the waterways and create more opportunities for recreational and retail opportunities. 

Maybe most importantly, the city believes improved water quality will allow for swimmers and many more species of fish and wildlife along the rivers. Margaret Frisbie, of Friends of the Chicago River, also believes that.

"One day--and it's not so far away--we will all be swimming in our rivers," she said.

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