Help us move forward: Horner Park public meeting, 5/4

March 31, 2016 , By Sarah Cardona

Public meeting: Wednesday, May 4, 2016 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Horner Park Fieldhouse, 2741 W. Montrose Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60618

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.

The Horner Park public meeting as well as the near north meeting held at REI in Lincoln Park generated very similar community feedback. At both meetings, we heard that water quality, riverfront access and more natural riverfront shorelines were residents’ biggest issues, concerns and ideas.

An overwhelming number of residents talked about riverfront pollution and the repeated and extensive damage to properties from river flooding. Residents envisioned a future with less trash floating in the water, saying they believe that “Chicago’s rivers could be clean!”

Community members on the northwest side also generally wanted to connect more with nature and the river. We heard repeated calls for better public access points (particularly for shore fishing or boat launching) and trails as ways to establish more “connectivity of green space to walkable space,” as one resident put it.

In addition to riverfront access, residents also wanted a more natural river setting. Of all riverfront activity, the majority of local residents said they visit the river in order to interact with nature, habitat and wildlife (especially turtles!). Restoring natural shorelines, introducing more trees and plants along the riverfront and promoting natural habitat for local species were all popular ideas for river improvements.

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 on water pollution, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago currently operates two garbage skimmer boats every day on the Chicago River between Ping Tom Memorial Park and Goose Island – but not further north or south. We can do something about that. It’s worth noting, however, that much of the litter in the rivers is actually windblown from surrounding sites, so we need to manage this litter on land and on the water.

With regards to accessing the river, the North Branch of the Chicago River has approximately 12 riverfront parks adjacent to the river. Of those 12, only four have formalized Park Advisory Councils. The North Branch also has 13 boat launches total. While the North Shore Channel has only three riverfront parks adjacent to the river, these parks cover a large amount of space and overall this river area enjoys a substantially complete riverfront trail. Not all areas are well-maintained, however, and this is where advocacy and stewardship from an active Park Advisory Council could help.

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 Wednesday, May 4, 2016 at Horner Park Fieldhouse, 2741 W. Montrose Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60618.

Please note, we will not be returning to REI in Lincoln Park for a separate public meeting, but instead invite residents to discuss the North Branch (including the Main Stem downtown) and North Shore Channel on May 4 at Horner Park Fieldhouse.

We look forward to hearing from you!

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