In an exciting new twist on park design, the world’s first floating eco-park will stretch for one mile along the Chicago River, offering a natural ecosystem within the city to support wetland and aquatic habitats, as well as provide recreational and educational activities.
To sit between Chicago and North avenues along the east side of Goose Island in the Chicago River, the park, known as Wild Mile Chicago, is being created by government officials and private developers. Planned as a mile-long project, it will add wildlife, recreational and educational amenities to the river’s offerings.
At its heart, the Wild Mile scheme will support the growth of a natural habitat to reside in the city’s channel system. Utilising pre-existing channel walls to support floating wetland and aquatic habitats, the eco-park will form a unique natural environment that can also be used for public water activities such as canoeing and kayaking.
Working with the City of Chicago, Urban Rivers, a group of ecologies and activists, are collaborating with SOM and various Chicago institutions to see the floating project realised. It is hoped that the end result will be an urban wildlife habitat for a diverse group of species and pollinators, and at the same time provide recreational and educational activities that might not otherwise be offered in an urban setting.
Initially part of the city’s North Branch Framework Plan - a land-use plan for 760 acres along the Chicago River, envisioned as a 17-acre in-stream river park to be one of the defining public open spaces for the modernisation of the North Branch Industrial Corridor - the eco-park site is currently being monitored by a volunteer-led initiative called River Rangers; citizen scientists that report daily throughout the site on a specific subset of plants.
Each volunteer keeps track of pollinators, wildlife in the area, plant health, and other conditions. The data collected is then recorded by the volunteers to maintain timely details regarding the health of the plantlife.
The groups are aiming to finalise plans by March, with the larger Wild Mile Chicago project scheduled for completion by mid-2020.
Images SOM via ArchDaily