Shabbat Message from Howard Rieger, President, JCCWRP
The City of Chicago and the Metropolitan Planning Council recently unveiled Chicago’s first unified vision for the Calumet, Chicago and Des Plaines Rivers. It’s known as Our Great Rivers Plan. With the support of the Chicago Community Trust and other funders and the involvement of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD), the Plan’s 26 goals include expanding river-edge open spaces, improving riverfront parks, enhancing continuous trails and river access, and promoting neighborhood tourism.
As a teenager, my friends and I called what is now known as the North Branch Channel the “sewer river.” Who could have envisioned that the channel would become the site of a treasured recreational amenity? Who could have imagined that the McCormick Trail, beautifying Evanston, Skokie, Lincolnwood and Chicago, would ever become a reality? But it did. and our community is incalculably enriched by it.
Today West Rogers Park is poised to be transformed by similar river-related amenities. Starting with the new park that will be created in 2017 at Devon and McCormick, thanks to the support of Ald. Silverstein, and the new biking/running/walking bridge that will finally connect the trail on the west side of the channel with the trail on the east side at Kedzie and Lincoln, that is exactly what is beginning to happen.
With the promulgation of Our Great Rivers Plan, another dream takes a step closer to becoming reality: transforming the park on the east side of the channel that runs along Kedzie from just north of the former Thillins ballpark to Touhy — Park 538, the park no one knows about — into the extraordinary neighborhood and regional asset it has the potential to become.
With 3 ½ miles of volunteer-maintained trails adjacent to the channel, Park 538 could provide a perfect venue for collaboration between the City of Chicago, the Chicago Park District, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District and some of the funders and planners who are helping to implement the Plan. What it would take initially would be fairly simple. Name the park. Erect signage to let the community know of its existence, and clear a few access points so people can actually see it and use it.
For next steps, MWRD could add interpretive signage similar to the displays they created at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Lincoln Park, underscoring the crucial role of water treatment in assuring the public health of our region.
Being in the right place at the right time is one key to success. Recognizing opportunities and creating synergies to take advantage of these openings is equally important.
Hopefully our advocacy together with other individuals and organizations in West Rogers Park and beyond will achieve that fulfillment for the continued betterment of our community.