By Adrian Naves
The idea of a floating island stems back in literature since Homer’s Odyssey, describing the island of Aeolia, home of Aeolus the God of wind. Odysseus and his men find an island floating above the sea, with a steep cliff of bronze and a palace on top of it.
Luckily for us Chicagoans, we get to experience a place close to a floating island – a floating conservational park, right in our own backyard. The floating eco-friendly park is being spearheaded by Urban Rivers, a Nonprofit organization founded by Zachary Damato, Nick Wesley, and Josh Yellin.
Urban Rivers, along with help and input from the local community, proposed a 17-acre river park aptly named the “Wild Mile.” The Wild Mile will be located on the North Branch Canal of the Chicago River, along with a man-made canal alongside the east side of Goose Island between Chicago Ave and North Ave.
The plan for the eco-park is to help preserve the natural environment of the rivers in the cities across the country. Getting the community involved and to become aware of the environment, inspire them of the nature surrounding the city, hoping to extend that same sentiment to a global scale.
Urban Rivers is hoping to establish the Chicago River as an urban sanctuary with the partnership of the City of Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development, community groups, corporations, and local businesses.
Speaking with Zachary Damto, he discussed about the overall design of the park, hoping to bring back some of the wildlife in the river. Also making the floating park recreational, designing it along the Chicago River, restoring some flow and connected pieces of the river that were blocked off from industry and warehouses. Installing floating gardens and walkway trails along the river surface and not on the land, along with kayaks to paddle on the river. The goal would be to make these parks interconnected with one another.
There are ways people can get involved with the Wild Mile project, by donation and helping to keep the park clean. River rangers help keep and maintain the waters clean, kayaking through the Chicago River for about 1-2 hours a week with training on all the fundamentals needed to kayak safely. Volunteers make an impact on preserving the park clean and making sure the gardens are free of any trash. Other volunteers can also have the chance of monitoring the wildlife and collect data for research projects. Visit UrbanRiv.org for more information.
Damto emphasized the community to get involved and to help spread the word about the Wild Mile, “for we have the right to the nature in the city,” Damto said. With the devastation of climate change, it’s important that we take care of the ecosystem and our planet, if not for ourselves, at least for future generations. There is a proverb that I’m unsure where it came from, but it seems fitting. This will be our gift to the future; to plant the seed of the tree, knowing we shall never see its leaves turn green.
To learn more about the Wild Mile project and any upcoming events, please visit UrbanRiv.org