Emanuel unveils plan for swimming in Chicago River

- Thursday’s hot and steamy forecast may have you thinking about a trip to the beach. But what about cooling off in the Chicago River?

On Wednesday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel was looking ahead to the day when a dip in the river won't be such a farfetched idea.

“I haven’t' fished in this spot here in a long time, that's why I came to check it out,” said fisherman Alex Aquino.

Aquino was fishing for catfish, crappie, and bluegills at River Park on Chicago's Northwest Side Wednesday. He wasn't having much luck, but still enjoyed the wildlife: a gaggle of geese, some birds doing their own fishing, a large turtle, and several schools of smaller fish.

Aquino would like to see the fishing improve.

“I'd come here more often if it did,” Aquino said.

And three miles downstream, Mayor Emanuel was predicting that it would as he introduced a blueprint for the river's future. 

“The idea, twenty years ago, ten years ago, that you would actually see people on the river, running and biking was not even imaginable,” Emanuel said.

The plan is called 'Our Great Rivers.’ Maybe it's most surprising prediction is that by 2030, children "...will be able to walk down the street and hop in the river, for good, clean fun." By 2040, the goal is for to be river will be free of odors and litter.

Better opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts like fisherman or kayakers is just a small part of the overall plan introduced Wednesday.

Expansion of riverfront biking and hiking trails is planned, along with  new riverfront venues.

“We invite our arts community to come together to look at how arts, music theater, can take advantage of these venues for hosting concerts, festivals and other productions,” said Terry Mazany of The Chicago Community Trust.

“We spent the last two years having this conversation. So we vetted the ideas, turned em over, looked at them again, and decided these are the things we can work on together,” said Margaret Frisbie of Friends of the Chicago River.

The plan encompasses not only the Chicago River, but portions of the Des Plaines and Calumet Rivers, and it includes using the rivers as economic engines to produce more jobs.

There’s no set price tag for the cost of the plan, but the mayor says a variety of state and federal funding sources should be available in the years ahead.

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