A stretch of the Chicago River, between North and Halsted, has always been an industrial-centric area known as the North Branch Canal and Turning Basin. Now, thanks to a new initiative, it’s been transformed into an educational wildlife park, complete with floating gardens, winding paths, and more. There’s also a learning platform where students and visitors can come to learn about the river.
The new eco-park, which was once considered an industrial stretch, used for hauling goods in Lincoln Park, now has a new life as a bustling garden center. The first phase of this project, which was just finished last month, can be found behind the REI store (905 W. Eastman St.) on the Chicago River canal located on the east side of the ever-popular Goose Island.
The initial project, which was proposed in 2017, envisions a “17-acre in-stream river park to be one of the defining public open spaces for the modernization of the North Branch Industrial Corridor.” according to the official website.
The Wild Mile found its funding in city grants, donations and partnerships with organizations such as the Shedd Aquarium. With a large floating platform, gardens, and walkways, the floating spectacle is filled with native species and other wildlife. Future phases of the project plans include expanding the floating park to cover a mile-long stretch from Halsted Street to North Avenue.
Nick Wesley, executive director of Urban Rivers, a nonprofit that works to transform city rivers into urban sanctuaries, notes that one of their goals is to continue creating an expansive wildlife first park.
Visitors can book a conservation-focused kayak tour with Shedd Aquarium, or one with REI, exploring the Chicago river. Other activities involve water-rides, and individual kayak rentals, with additional details found on their website.
Urban Rivers also hosts Thursday workshops every week at 7:15 PM, where visitors can learn about the wildlife in the area, amongst other things. The July schedule includes lessons on sound meditation today, birds found along the Chicago River on July 21st, and a Dance-apalooza on July 28th.
To become a rark ranger, sign up on Urban Rivers website here, or make a donation here. Keep scrolling for renderings of the complete project.
[Featured photo via: Fast Company]