Help us move forward: Des Plaines public meeting, 5/11

March 31, 2016 , By Sarah Cardona

Public meeting: Wednesday, May 11, 2016 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Dunning Library at 7455 W. Cornelia Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60634

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 Des Plaines River region’s public meeting, we heard that better riverfront access and improvements to the Des Plaines River Trail, as well as cleaner, safer river and riverfront conditions, were residents’ biggest issues, concerns and ideas.

Many residents wanted better signage, wayfinding and access points to enable community members to use the river and riverfront trail more for a range of activities, from walking, running, biking or birdwatching along the trail to kayaking, canoeing and fishing in the Des Plaines River. Residents would like to see riverfront trail improvements to address the flooding around the river that often causes the riverfront trails to become muddy.

Additionally, several residents along the Des Plaines River feel the river is hidden, and that “most people don’t know where the river is,” according to one resident. Residents are concerned about safety along the river and would like better signage and lighting, saying there is currently “no directional signage and no designated access points.” They also wanted improved water quality and less pollution along the river.

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:

Unlike Chicago’s other rivers, the Des Plaines River is almost entirely adjacent to a riverfront park managed by the Forest Preserves of Cook County, which offers public trails and other outdoor amenities. According to our research, access to this park is currently poorly signed and lacks effective connections to the transit system, in particular the two CTA Blue Line stations nearby, at Rosemont and Cumberland, as well as established bike lanes. The Forest Preserves of Cook County has developed the Gateway Master Plan which identified challenges and recommendations for signage, wayfinding, access and amenities.

According to our research on water pollution, 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. In 2015, the Forest Preserves of Cook County organized two clean-up events along the lower and upper Des Plaines River where more than 60 people participated. However, the Des Plaines River does not enjoy the same level of stewardship compared to natural area sites in other stretches of the river, such as Hegewisch Marsh along the Calumet River, Gompers Park along the North Branch of the Chicago or River Park at the confluence of the North Branch and North Shore Channel. These parks hosted volunteers who spent more than 690 hours combined participating in stewardship days organized by the Chicago Park District river-based programming.

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 11, 2016 at the Dunning Library, 7455 W. Cornelia Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60634.

We look forward to hearing from you!


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