OCTOBER 9 SUMMIT CAN HELP MAKE CHICAGO RIVER “SWIMMABLE AND FISHABLE” BY 2020
On a sunny August day, 400 canoeists and kayakers oared down the Chicago River in the “Chicago River Flatwater Classic”, the world's largest urban paddling race. Starting in the North Branch near old Riverview Park, participants glided downstream, spotting herons and turtles. They saw the new riverfront condos replacing decrepit factories.
When the paddlers reached downtown, the water became unusually clear as they maneuvered their tiny, colorful crafts through steel canyons amid tourist boats, outboards and working tugs. Hitting the finish line at Chinatown's Ping Tom Park, many paddlers reflected on how unlikely this race would have been a decade ago.
The Chicago River is being reborn.
Mayor Richard J. Daley once described his vision of cleaning up the Chicago River so Loop workers could cast a line in the water and barbecue a fish on the banks for lunch. We're moving closer to that dream.
But to achieve this dream and protect a resource that is so much a part of our history, broad citizen participation and grass-roots action are needed. That's why the Office of Illinois Lieutenant Governor and Friends of the Chicago River are co-hosting the “2nd Annual Chicago River Summit, ” Saturday, October 9 at 9:30 a.m., at Kendall College, 900 N. North Branch Street, Chicago (overlooking the Chicago River at Halsted).
At the first “Chicago River Summit” last year, a diverse audience representing rowers, riverfront residents, barge operators, government agencies, academics, historians and people who just love the Chicago River came together. The participants of this first Summit – much like the Founding Fathers who convened the Continental Congress – boldly stated a goal of making the Chicago River “fishable and swimmable by 2020”.
At this year's Summit, we'll focus on ways to improve water quality and public access, protect natural habitat, and foster recreation and economic development. A public comment period is included so anyone can share their ideas or concerns directly with the public officials and policymakers. Attendees can marvel at a photo exhibit about the 1915 Eastland Disaster or win a free canoe ride. The Chicago River Summit is free. To register, call 312-814-1164 or visit www.state.il.us/gov .
A Native American proverb states, “ We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” This as our guiding principle as we strengthen the voices of those who want to see their children “swimming and fishing” in the Chicago River by 2020.
Pat Quinn Laurene von Klan
Illinois Lieutenant Governor Executive Director,
Friends of the Chicago River
(As Lieutenant Governor, Quinn is Chairman of the Illinois River Coordinating Council, which is responsible for coordinating public and private funding for restoration of the Illinois River watershed, including the Chicago River. Von Klan is Executive Director of Friends of the Chicago River, a not-for-profit group founded in 1979 to protect the Chicago River. She also serves on the Illinois River Coordinating Council.)