Plan unveiled to make Chicago River swimmable

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The Chicago River may be perfect for cruising, but a new plan to make it swimmable was unveiled on Wednesday. (WLS)

The Chicago River may be perfect for cruising and kayaking, but a new plan to make it swimmable was unveiled on Wednesday.

The Chicago River near the Loop is bustling with activity as kayaks share the river with big tour boats downtown, and the Riverwalk draws many more people with restaurants and other attractions.

It's still a work in progress, but it is a model for what some city leaders hope to do with much of the rest of the Chicago, Calumet and Des Plaines rivers.

"Opening up our river as a recreational space that was walled off for industry and now making it a part of our neighborhoods, our communities, things that you can enjoy," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said.

A number of agencies and organizations have come together to put forth a vision for the area's 150 miles of riverfront. It includes increasing recreational opportunities with continuous riverfront trails, making them safe and increasing productivity, as well as cleaning up the waters.

"We've made huge strides. We wouldn't even be talking about this if the rivers weren't as clean as they are," said Josh Ellis, Metropolitan Planning Council.

Funding for the plan is a question mark, but leaders say they plan to draw on a number of sources, including the federal government, local park districts and private and corporate sponsors. The plan is long-range, with goals for 2020, 2030 and 2040.

"You do need to have a vision. Some of the more aspirational goals - swimmable rivers, litter and odor-free rivers - they're going to take some steps to get there," Ellis said.

The vision includes cleaning up the waters well enough to be able to swim in them.

"Canoeing and kayaking and one day swimming? That would be awesome," said LaTriece Arthur, a South Loop resident.

For more information on the plan, visit
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