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Floating Gardens in the Chicago River

Nonprofit Urban Rivers Installing 600 Feet of Wildlife Habitat


A stretch of the Chicago River that runs through Lincoln Park will be getting some beautification in spring 2017 through the installation of 600' of floating gardens, meant to restore natural wildlife habitat.
Credit: Urban Rivers Kickstarter

Thanks to nonprofit Urban Rivers and their 368 backers on Kickstarter, the Chicago River will see 600' of floating gardens next spring. When the fundraising ended, they had earned $28,984 of their $10,000 goal.

The project started out as a Master's thesis for Urban Rivers' cofounder Josh Yellin in June 2013. At that time, he built a 50' floating river and studied it as a fish habitat. The goal of this project is to recover habitat space in city waterways to provide a home for fish and other animals, and create a nature destination for people to enjoy.

The team will install four 150' long floating gardens in Lincoln Park, Chicago, for a total of 600'. They have partnered with Biomatrix Water for the construction of the garden structures, which will include marine-grade engineering, locking stainless steel quick connect systems, a cross-braced structure, UV resistant floats, and concrete anchors secured with a weighted guide rail. Each installment consists of four sections - one for tall plants, one for low to medium plants, bird platforms, and turtle platforms.

Native plants will be chosen in consultation with Peter Nagle, botanist at Chicago Botanic Garden. They expect to use marsh blazingstar, brown fox sedge, prairie cordgrass, and Kankakee mallow, among others.

The team has partnered with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District to study and monitor fish populations at the installation site for four years.

Permits, grants, research and funding have already been completed for the project and the first 600' of floating gardens will be installed in May 2017. The team is hoping for enough funding to create an additional 600' of gardens, plus art installations and educational programs, every year through 2020. At that point, they will have created a half-mile long Urban River park.

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May 19, 2019, 8:23 am PDT

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