Our Great Rivers

Feb 24, 2017

Our Great Rivers

Project Overview

Our Great Rivers is the first unifying and forward-looking vision and action agenda for Chicagoland's Calumet, Chicago and Des Plaines rivers. It is a product of the many ideas, suggestions, and beliefs that Chicagoland residents hold for the future of our rivers.

The vision states that by 2040, Chicagoland's rivers will be inviting, productive and living -- providing everyone with opportunities to find or create their own place, their own experience, and their own community on our rivers.


  • Our rivers will invite us to engage in stewardship, recreation, and work.
  • Our rivers will connect people to nature in the city and beyond, and function as thriving ecosystems.
  • Our rivers will be the best of us, where communities, habitats, and businesses prosper together.

Ultimately, our rivers will define us, rivaling the lakefront in our hearts and minds, and become a key source of pride for metropolitan Chicago.

Phase I

The first phase of the project, Great Rivers Chicago, focused on creating a vision and action agenda, with an emphasis on the river systems within the City of Chicago. The Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC), in partnership with the City of Chicago's Mayor's Office, Friends of the Chicago River and CMAP, led the planning effort. 

The vision and action agenda were developed through an extensive, multi-faceted public outreach effort that included more than 100 formal and informal opportunities for Chicagoland stakeholders to provide input. Outreach activities included:

  • An online survey, which received nearly 3,800 responses from stakeholder throughout the region
  • Field trips, such as factory visits, paddling trips, site walks, bike rides, and boat tours
  • Nine community open housea
  • Five design charrettes

Additional input and guidance were provided by a Leadership Commission and a Resource Group, comprised of experts from a wide range of fields and industries.

The Our Great Rivers vision and action agenda, released in August 2016, was the culmination of Phase I. The action agenda includes 26 goals, which are categorized into three sections -- inviting, productive. and living. Each section describes aspirational visions of our rivers' future that look out to 2020, 2030, and 2040, and recommended actions for the public and government. Goals are also timed based on a combination of feasibility and priority. To learn more about the vision and action agenda, please visit http://greatriverschicago.com/index.html

Phase II

The second phase of the project, a continuation of the partnership between MPC, CMAP, and Friends of the Chicago River, will focus on the Calumet, Chicago, and Des Plaines river reaches in suburban Cook County. The goals of the second phase are to explore what the Our Great Rivers vision means in these areas, advance relevant recommended actions, and use the Our Great Rivers vision and action agenda to support past and ongoing river-related planning and implementation efforts.

Public Engagement

As part of Phase II, the project team will seek additional input from Chicagoland stakeholders on the Our Great Rivers vision and action agenda, with a focus on stakeholders in suburban Cook County communities adjacent to the Des Plaines, Calumet (including the Cal-Sag Channel), and North Branch/North Shore Channel river systems.

Learn more about future public engagement opportunities by visiting this web page.



Kelsey Pudlock, CMAP Project Manager (kpudlock@cmap.illinois.gov or 312-386-8712)

Kara Riggio, Metropolitan Planning Council Project Manager (kriggio@metroplanning.org or 312-863-6022)

For more information on the project and upcoming events, follow CMAP's Twitter feed at @ONTO2050 and hashtag #CMAPLTA for the latest updates.

To Top