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(Im)possible Chicago #3: Forever Open, Free & Clear v2.0

Over a century since retail magnate A. Montgomery Ward sounded the battle cry to defend the city's mandate to keep its lakefront a public common that is “forever open, clear and free of any buildings, or other obstructions whatever,” a similar call to arms was made for the Chicago River, to make it forever free of industries, private developments and sewage.

The ensuing political battles were bruising, and not every building was cleared away, but at least now one can stroll the entire length of the river without having to go up and down flights of stairs or cross streets and fight through traffic. In fact, starting at any point, you can walk or bike or jog along a circuitous path running on both banks of the river and end right where you started.

Along the way, you might encounter kayaking parties setting off from mini-harbors, anglers, community theaters staging avant-garde interpretations of The Odyssey, and triathletes in training. As it is now a baptismal font for future Olympian swimmers, your roundabout will be soundtracked by the ecstatic screams of children frolicking in the waters. During the winter, ice swimming clubs and mobile skating rinks proliferate.

Every four years, the entire river is artificially frozen for a monthlong frost fair.

  • Richard_Alomar
  • June 30, 2010 at 3:40:00 PM CDT
  • some more on Chicago's Edge:

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