Illinois Governor Pat Quinn continues to surprise me with his focus on improving the environmental conditions of our great state. Touted "Our Green Governor" and endorsed by the Illinois Sierra Club, Quinn has set into motion several initiatives to improve energy usage, energy production and public transportation, as well as helping enact laws that enforce recycling for electronic products.
On Dec. 9, he and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the plans for development of an urban park system that will eventually surpass the size of Manhattan
by tenfold and include 140,000 acres. Planned for Chicago's south side, the Millennium Reserve (MR) follows the Obama Administration's America's Great Outdoors
Initiative, which pushes local solutions to conservation issues and grassroots involvement in ensuring these changes are made.
Quinn also stated that $17.9 million will be taken from the Illinois Jobs Now! to finance improvements in recreational facilities as well as several conservation projects which will help complete the Millennium Reserve. Once completed, the vision of this project is to not only promote a greater relationship between people and land via recreation, education and conservation, but to also reinvigorate the economy by developing jobs and attracting tourists to an area of the city long ignored and seen as an industrial wasteland.
For now, the first steps will be completing the Calumet Core
Phase, which includes turning 15,000 acres of neglected land around Lake Calumet into open space, with 53 miles of trails joining the Reserve with Millennium Park, located downtown. According to the Illinois Government's
website for the MR, the "Calumet Area is an industrial area and contains some of the most troubling pollution 'hot spots' of our industrial legacy. It also boasts some of the richest Biodiversity in the state including federal threatened and endangered species. Building on past successes and planning efforts, the Federal, State and local governments involved in MR have the vision and drive to continue development of the project from planning to reality."
Building the Burnham Greenway Trail Gap, which will connect Chicago with the Village of Burnham by constructing two bridges (one over the Grand Calumet River and the other over the CSX railroad), and securing a long term lease allowing the public entry through two miles of the greenway.
The Indian Ridge Marsh Restoration Project
, with the Army Corp of Engineers, is intended to preserve and repair an area around Lake Calumet that houses black-crowned night heron
, and to improve conditions of the marsh for other species and their habitats, including recreational areas for park patrons.
Calumet Heritage Area Historic Trails, along with other partners, is developing historic trails through this core region.
Various other projects are also being developed by the DNR, Chicago Park District and the Forest Preserve District of Cook County. For more information, visit the Millennium Reserve