By 2030, We Could Be Swimming In The Chicago River | WBEZ
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By 2030, We Could Be Swimming In The Chicago River (If All Goes According To Plan)

If everything goes according to plan, taking a dip in the Chicago River may soon not be a ridiculous thought.

“The vision laid out today for the next forty years is our guiding principle, our north star,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Right now the river is a place people avoid, he said. This plan, released Wednesday by the Metropolitan Planning Council, along with the Friends of the Chicago River and the City of Chicago, hopes to make the Chicago, Calumet and Des Plaines rivers a place people enjoy.

It includes projects like a wetland park near Goose Island and turning the smelly Collateral Channel into “a green space connection between El Paseo/La Villita Park and the river.”

And by 2040, the plan envisions entirely odor and litter-free rivers. Emanuel says other spaces throughout the city that were used for commercial purposes are now being enjoyed by everyone and that’s the hope for this plan. 

“Just like the 606, just like Maggie Daley (park), just like Northerly Island, we will reclaim it as our recreational frontier and park for the city of Chicago for generations to come.” said Emanuel. 

Josh Ellis, who’s with the MPC, says they got a lot of community input on what residents wanted to see in and out of the rivers, in the city and throughout the suburbs. Ellis says the groups spoke with around 6,000 people about their hopes for the rivers.

“Whether they were having lunch at Calumet Fisheries, whether they were paddling at Ping Tom Park, or whether they were running on the Des Plaines River Trail,” recalled Ellis. “They said more jobs and businesses, more and more diverse recreational opportunities and restore habitat and water quality.”

Here are some of the other goals laid out:

A bird’s-eye view rendering of future mixed use development by the Chicago River at Bubbly Creek. (Courtesy of the Metropolitan Planning Council)

Here are some of the other goals laid out:

By 2020: Real-time water quality information

Sensors throughout the rivers would “track specific pollutants throughout a 24-hour period.” Chicagoans could then check these levels on smartphones and computers.

By 2030: Easy access from all neighborhoods

There’ll be an effort to figure out how easy it is to access the river across the city, and then a push toward “enhancing and connecting” nearby CTA stops, trails and sidewalks. There are also plans to ramp up water taxi service and to add more Divvy stations closer to the river.

Also by 2030: Rivers we can swim in

The goal is to get Chicago rivers up to standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency by cutting down sewer overflows. A big part of this effort will be finishing the “Deep Tunnel” infrastructure plan that started in 1975.

You can find Great Rivers Chicago’s whole plan here.

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