This afternoon Mayor Rahm Emanuel and and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa P. Jackson announced a $1 million grant from EPA and a new city program for clean up of the Chicago River, new river bike trails and construction of four new boat houses along the river, including one at Clark Park, 3400 N. Rockwell Ave. and one at River Park, 5100 N. Francisco St.
Design for the boat houses, to be designed by Chicago architects Chris Lee and Jeanne Gang, will begin this winter, with the first facilities expected to be opened in 2013.
The city expects each boat house to cost about $4 million. Part of the funds will come from EPA, part from private sources still to be named, and the remaining amount to come from the Chicago Park District, says Tom Alexander, a spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office.
In addition to the boat houses, the city will complete the riverside bike trail that currently stops at Irving Park Rd. in Clark Park and does not pick up again until north of Wilson Ave.
“I think a lot is coming together for the river,” says Ryan Chew, who operates Chicago Canoe & Kayak in Clark Park. “The news that bike trails are being completed is about as big [as the boat houses].”
Chew, who expects to serve close to 7,000 boaters this season, figured something was up when he was contacted a few weeks ago by the Chicago Park District for his thoughts on what a Clark Park boat house should look like.
“They want kayak vendors and we’re a proven vendor that knows about the area. I look at the fact that they called us for some input as a token that they have some appreciation for what we’re doing,” says Chew.
The city is also planning new boat houses on the South Branch at Ping Tom Park and 28th and Eleanor. In addition, the EPA Grant includes funds to Friends of the Forest Preserve to help remove invasive plants in the river system.
For those who want to get in the river this season, Chicago Canoe & Kayak is open in Clark Park through the end of October, Fridays, 1:00 to 6:00 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.