Lathrop Project Paddle Helps Launch Chicago River Community, Stewardship
The Julia C. Lathrop Homes is spurring new activity along the riverbank there where the new 34-acre project includes a nature trail, banks removed of invasive plants and a habitat restored to assist the local turtle population and other wildlife. A kayak launch site and a boathouse add to the allure of the river location.
To ensure success, Friends of the Chicago River worked with Lathrop Community Partners to get residents interested in the Lathrop riverfront area and to foster neighborhood connections. Through community outreach, public meetings and other events, Friends has been working to help launch Lathrop Riverfront Group, an independent community organization that will meet regularly, host community events, and continue to bring together neighbors around the riverfront.
On Saturday, September 22, 2018, Friends and our partners, including Heartland Housing, Bickerdike Redevelopment Corp. and Related Midwest, hosted an inaugural paddle that brought together residents, educators, and community leaders. About two dozen people paddled north from the Chicago Park District's WMS boathouse at Clark Park to Horner Park to view the restored riverbank and to discuss models of local stewardship.
"It's great to see the Chicago River appreciated as a natural and cultural resource," said Friends Executive Director Margaret Frisbie. "It's an amenity that the Lathrop community can enjoy and must protect."
“Our hope for this group is that they foster stewardship, restoration, and engagement along their stretch of the riverbank,” said Joanne So Young Dill, director of strategic initiatives for Friends. Friends Policy and Planning Specialist Andy Donakowski and Volunteer and Events Associate Annette Anderson were among the group on the initial paddle.
“We are thrilled anytime we see stakeholders working together to improve access and recreational use of area waterways,” said Metropolitan Water Reclamation District President Mariyana Spyropoulos. “This use accentuates the work that the MWRD, Friends of the Chicago River and so many others have been doing to showcase our water environment.”
“We want people to be purposefully and intentionally doing things around the river,” Lathrop project manager Sarah Wick told Real Deal Chicago reporter Alex Nitkin. “The idea is to get more people to start seeing the river as an amenity.”
MWRD Public Affairs Specialist Dan Wendt and Dill captured these scenes: