Help us move forward: Rowan Park public meeting, 5/24

March 31, 2016 , By Sarah Cardona

Public meeting: Tuesday, May 24, 2016 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Rowan Park Fieldhouse, 11546 S. Avenue L, Chicago, Ill. 60617

Please register for the public meeting >>

During 2015, Great Rivers Chicago heard from more than 5,000+ residents about their visions for the future of the city’s three rivers, the Calumet, Chicago and Des Plaines. Many residents shared their rivers aspirations at one of the public meetings organized last fall on different sections of our rivers: the Calumet, the South Branch and North Branch/North Shore Channel of the Chicago, and the Des Plaines.

During the public meeting at Rowan Park, we heard that sustainable economic development, better riverfront access and more programming activities were residents’ biggest issues, concerns and ideas.

Residents believed that the Calumet River could be a green industrial corridor for light manufacturing and renewable energy production that provides jobs for local residents. Several residents envisioned a future of “eco-industrial development along the river, with green energy facilities, remediated brownfields” that is a “job creator” as one resident put it. More than anything, riverfront industrial uses need to be more sensitive to the river ecology and community health.

An overwhelming number of residents wanted better riverfront access, particularly for more recreational opportunities like canoeing, kayaking and walking or biking along a continuous riverfront trail. Some ideas included creating a new trail, extending the Major Taylor Trail or building a spur off Cal-Sag Trail, and providing bike access points as well as other improvements to make the rivers “more accessible.”

In addition to riverfront access, residents also wanted more programming along the Calumet River, including festivals and concerts, as well as recreational opportunities of all kinds. Residents said they want the rivers to be “active gathering places” with “more community activity,” making Chicago’s rivers “a place that is at the center of the community” said one resident.

We recorded all of your feedback in a database of suggestions, comments and possible solutions to consider in reimagining Chicago’s rivers. These insights guided a robust research process to look further into the current conditions and concerns and what key recommendations could be made to realize a better future for our rivers. Together, this information has helped us draft the overall vision of the future of our rivers, and key recommendations.

We are now planning to check back in with your community on a substantive draft of the Great Rivers Chicago vision, so that you can offer input before the final vision is released later this year, as well as identify ways to be part of—or even lead—implementation.

Here is a little bit about what our research told us, in advance of the meeting:

According to our research, the Calumet Industrial Corridor area along the Calumet River has the potential to be a renowned national example of the co-existence of productive industry and valuable natural areas. In 2014, manufacturing jobs comprised 72 percent of jobs in the Calumet Industrial Corridor. Between 2002 and 2014, the number of total primary jobs in the Calumet Industrial Corridor has increased by 54 percent (more than 2,000 additional jobs).

Our research confirms that for the Calumet region, there is a moderately low level of access to the river. For example, there are only two main boat access points in the Calumet region and three along the Cal-Sag Channel. We are also investigating the current access to trails along the Calumet river network to evaluate access of residents and workers to these trails and suggest potential new locations for trails and on-street trail segments.

As for public programming along the rivers, our research shows that there were 66 public events and programs of various types that took place in 10 parks along the Chicago and Des Plaines rivers between 2011 and 2016 requesting permits from the Chicago Park District. There were no public events requesting permitting from the Chicago Park District to host public events in any of the six parks within a ¼ mile of the Calumet river during that time. The Chicago Park District itself operates numerous special events and programs in multiple parks and natural areas throughout the Calumet region.

We want to make sure as many people as possible come out to vet our draft vision and action agenda. Please bring your friends, family and neighbors to the meeting on Tuesday, May 24, 2016 at Rowan Park Fieldhouse, 11546 S. Avenue L, Chicago, Ill. 60617.

We look forward to hearing from you!

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