Happy New Year from Friends

The North Branch of the Chicago River at River Park on Chicago's Northwest Side.

“Is this a time to be cloudy and sad,

When our mother Nature laughs around;

When even the deep blue heavens look glad,

And gladness breathes from the blossoming ground?”

The Gladness of Nature by William Cullen Bryant

As the New Year dawns we hope that you feel as optimistic as we do about the future and take pride in all you have contributed to making the Chicago River system healthier for people and wildlife. We are inspired by the action and advocacy of our supporters, volunteers, donors, and partners who made 2021 a successful year and set the stage for more in 2022.

Some of the last year’s highlights include:

  • Completion of the multi-stakeholder NPDES Community Report which will drive equity-based river use and improvements in the years to come,
  • Publication of Friends’ Habitat Connectivity Action Plan (HCAP) that identifies strategies and opportunities to improve and connect wildlife habitat,
  • New GIS River Edge Development Tracking Map an advocacy tool focused on planned and proposed river-edge developments,
  • Restoration of hundreds of acres of river-adjacent properties to create habitat for all of kinds of wildlife including endangered species such as the Hines emerald dragonfly,
  • Launch of the Indian Ridge Marsh-South Restoration project as part of the work of the Chicago-Calumet River Watershed Council which is developing a Natural Solutions Tool to prioritize projects centered around multiple social, economic, and environmental benefits especially public health and wellness.

In 2021, 10 years after swimming in the river system was approved by the EPA, Friends expanded the Big Jump into the inaugural Summer Float Party to call attention to the need to truly support on-the-water and in-the-water recreation. We also began celebrations of the 25th anniversary of Friends’ premier student education program, the Chicago River Schools Network which has educated over 450,000 students. Also this past year we were proud to have been recognized by the International River Foundation as one of three global finalists for the Thiess International Riverprize and by Chicago Wilderness as a Force of Nature, bringing the number of awards to over 45 since we were founded 42 years ago. 

At Friends we are honored to serve as the voice for the Chicago River system for clean water, healthy habitat, public access and investments to realize our blue-green corridor vision. As we look ahead to 2022 there is a lot to be excited about – including the 30th Anniversary of Chicago River Day on May 14. Together, we will work boldly to achieve our ambitious efforts to improve and protect the Chicago River system for people, plants, and animals – now and into the future.

We wish you a safe and joyful New Year.