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Chicago to invest in recreation on the river

The city of Chicago plans to build recreational facilities up and down the Chicago River, beginning with four new boathouses. Mayor Rahm Emanuel says it’s part of an effort to change the way Chicagoans think about a waterway best known for transporting freight and waste.

Two boathouses would be located on the North Side, at River Park and Clark Park, and two on the South Side, at Ping Tom Park and at 18th and Eleanor. They would include launches for paddlers, concessions and picnic spaces.

Emanuel played up the increase in property values for waterfront locations. He says the point is to cultivate the same benefits for communities along the river that lakefront neighborhoods have long enjoyed.

“I now want to turn our attention to our backyard and have that same vision, that same economic growth, that same vitality to our neighborhoods and communities that don’t have a front yard just on the lake,” Emanual said. 

Each boathouse is expected to cost about $4 million, split evenly between the city and the private sector. The federal government is expected to contribute money, which Emanuel says will be announced in coming weeks.

In fact the nation’s top environmental official, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, was by his side at Monday’s announcement. She says the plan dovetails with her agency’s mandate that the river water be cleaned up.

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