Will the Riverwalk Help the River?

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As Frisbie explains during the interview, Friends is thrilled about the riverwalk because it will invite people down to the water so that they can experience the magic and the pageantry of the Chicago River up close and really start to understand that it is alive and needs protecting.

The interview was prompted by what seemed like a call from commodification of the riverwalk by the City when they announced that it is searching for a team to manage the riverwalk. The RFP seeks builders, marketing specialists, or property managers who can oversee 100,000 square feet of retail space along the riverwalk. Development along the river is important for tourist and tax revenue they said.

Yet Frisbie says if the City sticks to its designed plan the riverwalk can balance commerce and public open green space and benefit both uses. The key is establishing harmony between nature, restaurants and cafés, and open space so that people can enjoy the river while dining out, wading in a fountain, or just in quiet contemplation. The riverwalk should provide for it all.  

From Friends’ perspective the riverwalk will create opportunities for public education so that people feel more connected to the river. “Access to the river provides an avenue for advocacy,” Frisbie stated. Development will bring awareness, allowing people to recognize all that the river has to offer and give them a chance to interact with it in a direct, meaningful way. For example, because part of the riverwalk are designed to flood, when there is pollution from combined sewer overflows and stormwater the public will see it and be more conscious of kinds of challenges the river faces.

To listen to the whole interview, click here.