Better ways to make the Chicago River a ‘natural, blue-green corridor’ for all of us

It would benefit people in every community regardless of socio-economic status.

SHARE Better ways to make the Chicago River a ‘natural, blue-green corridor’ for all of us
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A man paddles down the Norther Branch of the Chicago Riverv on April 7. Temperatures Tuesday reached over 70 degrees in Chicago

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

In his April 24 column [“Got the COVID-19 blues? Take a bike ride along the Chicago River”], the Sun-Times’ Ed Zotti gets it right: “Few things so vividly demonstrate the transformation of Chicago as the revitalization of the river.”

Zotti accurately lays out key considerations that need to take place: unfettered public access, more river-based commuter options and bountiful wildlife restoration. We must avoid outdated development practices and embrace sustainable development and restoration.

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The most important consideration for city planners, property developers and river advocates is this: The Chicago River system should be developed and protected as a natural, blue-green corridor of accessible public open space that benefits people and wildlife. This includes a watershed-wide approach to implementing a nature-based infrastructure to help alleviate the combined sewage and stormwater that is discharged into the river after heavy rains.

A blue-green corridor is a sustainable solution that uses the Chicago River system and adjacent lands to establish an interconnected passageway between natural habitats.It would benefit people in every community regardless of socio-economic status.Social, environmental and economic benefits abound from this new way of thinking, including better water quality, more open space to reduce flooding and sewer overflows, improved wildlife habitat and expanded recreational opportunities.

A2019 report by the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater’s Fiscal and Economic Research Center (commissioned by Friends of the Chicago River) says the development of a blue-green corridor would create $192 million in total annual economic benefits over 15 years, besides improving the natural habitat for people, plants and animals. It also would significantly help reduce flooding, pollution and the urban heat island effect.

In addition, the report shows that a connected passageway of natural habitats along the Chicago River system would support more than 1,600 jobs annually. With 168 miles of trail near the river edge, and over 32,000 acres of publicly owned open space within a half-mile of the river, there is a growing realization of the importance of establishing a blue-green corridor.

Planning and coordination among municipalities, counties and other public groups as well as private land holders is vital to design, implement and safeguard a long-term blue-green strategy. The benefits are clear. Let’s get to work.

Sally Fletcher, president, board of directors, Friends of the Chicago River

Thinks he knows better

Will someone please inform Vice President Mike Pence that it is possible to look people in the eye while wearing a mask? Like his boss, he thinks he knows better than the medical experts. And Mayo Clinic should not have made an exception allowing him access to their facility under their guidelines and plain old common sense.

Marilyn Koperniak, Garfield Ridge

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