2020 Goal: Activities to draw people to our rivers

A barge hosting a special event is one of many ways to draw people to the river.

Imagination and resources will converge to create a surge of activity on our rivers and riverfronts—which in turn begets future interest and innovation.

Large-scale events such as a river triathlon, tall ships, Chicago River Day and St. Patrick's Day will be complemented by more frequent, smaller scale events along previously less active stretches of riverfront. These include events like Movies in the Park, neighborhood river tours, school field trips, religious ceremonies and more. Five-k and 10k walks and runs, as well as paddling races will become regular occurrences along all three rivers; while the Calumet River, with its long stretches of straightaway, will develop a reputation as a prime regional destination for longer cycling and rowing events.

“A continuous trail along the river would be a great place to host a 5k or 10k race.”

—David Wong, Great Rivers Chicago Leadership Commission

Seasonal barges moored along the riverfront will create temporary, movable public spaces. These "barge parks" will simultaneously fill gaps in riverfront access and provide new destinations for residents and tourists alike, such as pop-up bars and restaurants, fishing events, farmers markets, music performances and more. Likewise, previously vacant or underused land along the river will be temporarily repurposed to host food truck rallies, temporary parks, concerts and urban gardens. People from across the city can experience the culture and vibe of the surrounding neighborhoods while generating benefits for the local community, even as these sites await long-term public or private redevelopment.

Forest Preserves of Cook County

The annual Des Plaines River Canoe and Kayak Marathon draws crowds of competitors and spectators to the river.

This 5k route showcases the river, the Collateral Channel and the planned El Paseo trail.

Making it happen

  • Incorporate publicly owned riverfront land into the Chicago Dept. of Transportation's Make Way for People initiative, which creates public spaces that cultivate community and culture in Chicago's neighborhoods.
  • Produce a centralized river and riverfront event planning guide to explain land ownership, permitting, environmental conditions and jurisdictional details.
  • Encourage private land owners, community organizations and other groups to plan and implement events and activities on our riverfronts.

Key players

Mayor’s Office, Chicago Dept. of Planning and Development, Chicago Dept. of Transportation, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, Chicago Dept. of Fleets and Facilities, Chicago Dept. of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, Chicago Park District, Forest Preserves of Cook County, Ill. Dept. of Natural Resources, Friends of the Chicago River, local chambers of commerce, aldermanic offices, community organizations

Our rivers, our role

  • Help organize a Movie in the Park at a riverfront site.
  • Contact the Chicago Park District or Forest Preserves of Cook County about special event permits, for example, for a 5k run for charity.
  • Talk to riverfront property owners about hosting a low-cost community event, such as a food truck rally.
  • Work with your alderman, church, school or local business group to plan a riverfront neighborhood festival.
  • Join (or create!) a Park Advisory Council.

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