I worked at Marina City for the Chicago RTA (Regional Transportation Authority) 1980-82. The area immediately north of it was pretty dead, although you could see it had great potential. Now it is filled with new high rise housing, and with huge numbers of restaurants. Part of Clark Street is closed off to traffic with the restaurants into the street. The area is vibrant. The area along State Street is marginal, but likely headed for substantial urban redevelopment.
Kayaks in the Chicago River
Wolf Point and the Chicago River
Our country did a great job cleaning up our water and air. Our nation embarked on a huge multi year effort to make all of our rivers, streams, and lakes suitable for fishing and swimming. This effort began when I first started as a city planner in 1973. It took many years of effort. Our air and water are not perfect but they are much better then in the good old days.
I can remember how Mayor Daley was laughed at when he said we would be fishing in the Chicago River. Now we can. And what used to be an open sewer is now a tremendous asset for the City and State.
I can remember canoeing on the DesPlaines and Chicago River and Cal Sag channel. It was a disgusting open sewer. Our air quality was also bad, back in the day when we used coal to heat our homes and power our industry. Flying into the city you could see it encased in an ugly black cloud, depending on the wind.
I was working as the Planning Director for Will County just south of Chicago and Cook County in 1975. The Chicago River drained into the Des Plains and Illinois Rivers through our county and it was an open sewer. My department was paid $200,000 of Federal funds to work on the project. We needed to vastly upgrade our sewer plants and also reduce pollutants from farm and urban areas. A substantial amount of ordinane revision and planning was required.
One of our efforts was to publicize and win public support for the effort. One of my ideas was to have a big event in Joliet. I planned to jump in the River, and swim from one side to the other to show how great it would be once we were finished. My environmental expert suggested that I talk to the health department first. They described what they did with someone who fell into the river, including scrubbing every orifice with alchohol and numerous innoculations. I skiped the river swim idea.
We also spent time with citizens who thought it would be much better to build swimming pools and leave the rivers filthy. We won that argument.
Our water and air quality is now much better. We can all be proud of our successful efforts to substantially improve our environment
Jul 28, 2022
The River North area has turned into a vibrant mix of outdoor restaurants and taverns.
Young man in the Chicago River reading his phone:
Vietnam Memorial on the north side of the Chicago River and State Street