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Building the next phase of the Wild Mile: a mile-long park in the Chicago River, with student programming as a priority.
165 backers pledged $30,356 to help bring this project to life.

About

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$30,356

165

Building out the next phase of the Wild Mile: a mile-long, floating eco-park in the Chicago River, with educational programming for Chicago students as a top priority.

Your pledge will connect your name to the next century of Chicago history and inspire urban river innovation around the world!

Aerial view of the future Wild Mile, indicated by the dotted white lines. 
Aerial view of the future Wild Mile, indicated by the dotted white lines. 

 What Your Donations Will Fund: 

The Wild Mile will include the entirety of the Goose Island canal, as well as the Army Corps turning basin at the north end of the canal.  

The foundation of the Wild Mile has been laid thanks to our previous kickstarter efforts, all of the stakeholders from the Wild Mile Framework plan, and our volunteers. Now, with your help today, we will launch the first phase of the Wild Mile plan, in earnest. 

When we hit our goal of $25,000 we'll be able to add 500 sq. ft of additional habitat into the Wild Mile and sponsor 60+ student's field trips to the Wild Mile (all expenses paid) so they can learn about river ecology, the importance of additional habitat and personally be part of installing gardens into the Wild Mile. Our team has permits ready to put your support to work immediately!

However, our work doesn't stop there, if we raise:

A GIF showing the growth of the gardens as donations grow!
A GIF showing the growth of the gardens as donations grow!

$50,000

  • Install 1,000 sq ft of additional habitat  
  • 120+ student kayak field trips (all expenses paid)
  • Begin building the Floating Forest

$100,000

  • Install 2,000 sq ft of additional habitat 
  • 240+ student kayak field trips (all expenses paid)
  • Expand our floating gardens 

$150,000

  • Install 3,000 sq ft of additional habitat and 
  • 360+ student kayak field trips (all expenses paid)
  • Expand our floating walkways

$200,000

  • Install 5,000  sq ft of additional habitat 
  • 600+ student kayak field trips (all expenses paid)
  • Finish the Floating Forest
  • Make the Wild Mile the coolest floating park in the world!
The Wild Mile North Reach (Render) Credit: SOM
The Wild Mile North Reach (Render) Credit: SOM

During this Phase, we will: 

  • Expand the artificial riverbanks and wetland habitat for native plant species and wildlife with our existing permits (Waste Management, Whole Foods Market and REI property line on Goose Island).   
  • Begin to bring students from across Chicago to the Wild Mile.
  • Start creating the first Floating Forest in the Chicago River.
  • Test and evaluate the efficacy of mussel habitats, floating tree platforms, benthic macroinvertebrate pallets, and supplemental aeration systems, among many other river restoration strategies to determine which conservation actions yield the greatest benefit to the river ecosystem and provide benefit to a wider range of wildlife. 
  • Our goal is to install all additional gardens and execute all of our student school trips for the 2020 river season which is approximately June 2020. Our team needs to plan out the designs, put orders in for plants and coordinate with schools in advance. If student led trips are sooner, we will communicate with all backers.
     
Dr. Phil Willink Looking at Plant Growth
Dr. Phil Willink Looking at Plant Growth

The Wild Mile Is For The People

The Wild Mile is designed to be accessible to anyone who wants to escape from the city into a natural sanctuary, surrounded by native plants, wildlife and the river. It is free to visit and enjoy, and provides ample opportunity for schools and community organizations to use the Wild Mile as a unique ecological resource in their own backyard. Additionally, educational programming will be layered onto the park with programs from young learners to graduate researchers to adult volunteers—many of these programs are already running.

Urban Rivers Co-Founder Nick Wesley showing off some Wild Mile designs
Urban Rivers Co-Founder Nick Wesley showing off some Wild Mile designs

Ready to go          

  • The Wild Mile is fully designed and the next phase is fully permitted. The only obstacle remaining is raising the proper funds to fully implement the vision.

Our Timeline So Far       

  • First pilot module - Our true genesis was in 2014, with the experiment designed by co-founder Josh Yellin. His experiment looked to determine if a small artificial wetland platform could attract more fish than other man made structures in a stretch of the river that was starved for natural habitat. This experiment demonstrated significant potential; fish were twice as abundant directly adjacent to the pilot platform than any other observed location in the canal and native species were witnessed spawning around the module, which proved that it was more than just an attractant but also supported growing wildlife populations.
  • Building on this success, in 2017, we turned to Chicagoan's and the Kickstarter community to help us turn our pilot island into a full-fledged floating wetland. More space for native plants would allow us to properly research the ecological and environmental benefits of these structures in a meaningful way, and provide us with the tools to be able to provide the most value to wildlife. In 2017, funded almost entirely by the Kickstarter community in our first campaign, we raised over $25,000 which helped us install over 1,500 sq ft of floating gardens hosting over 55 native Illinois wetland and prairie plant species. 
  • We have been working hard to develop partnerships with community groups, schools, local businesses, and other companies and organizations that realize the value of supporting the larger vision of the Wild Mile.  
  • Partnered with the Chicago Department of Planning and Development on creating the Wild Mile Framework plan, which is a vision for how to bring the Wild Mile to life. 

Why the east side of Goose Island?

  • The east side of Goose Island currently doesn't have any existing commercial barge or boat traffic which opens up the possibility for a recreational park to be installed for the community, by the community. 
  • Goose Island is a man made island, created in the 19th century by the excavation of the Goose Island canal by one of the first mayors of Chicago. For over a century, the canal dutifully played its assigned role as expanding industrial access to the Chicago River. In recent decades, the canal, now unused, has fallen into disrepair, and can no longer function as a navigable waterway (east side of Goose Island), and lacks the natural riverbanks to be able to support healthy wildlife populations. Centrally located in a rapidly de-industrializing area of the city, we realized an opportunity to create a wildlife haven where only rusty seawall existed before.
Beautiful Shot of Gardens With City in Background
Beautiful Shot of Gardens With City in Background

Partnerships

Over the last five years, we have developed strong, ongoing partnerships with prominent businesses and local organizations. From Patagonia who gave us our first grant, to Kayak Chicago who provides in-kind kayak donations for our volunteers, to Shedd Aquarium and Near North Unity Program who partner with us on educational programming--the Wild Mile is a place for everyone.

Partner Organizations
Partner Organizations

Press and Awards

  • The Wild Mile has been featured in dozens of press articles, blog posts and TV segments. Most notably, the Chicago Tribune, Crain’s Chicago Business and WGN.
  • Urban Rivers and the Wild Mile have also won prominent awards, including the 2017 ASLA Honor Award, “The Coolest Thing of 2018” from the Friends of Downtown, “The Silver Ribbon” in 2019 from Friends of the Chicago River.                                                                                  
    • The plan is to continue to build the Wild Mile in phases toward the fulfillment of the community-developed framework plan and guided by the guiding principles. The high-level plan is can be seen here.

Skidmore Owings & Merrill designer Rachel Momenee speaking to local kids about the Wild Mile!
Skidmore Owings & Merrill designer Rachel Momenee speaking to local kids about the Wild Mile!

Team

  • The team that makes up Urban Rivers is a passionate group of ecologists, volunteers, entrepreneurs and public servants with a collective background that spans world-renowned organizations, businesses and institutions, like Microsoft and Google. 
  • Collectively, our team has experience in conservation, international environmental projects, biology, entrepreneurship, agriculture, environmental education, and hydroponics. Our values are forged from these experiences and the belief that communities deserve to enjoy nature every day. The core team has a rich understanding of botany, community engagement, and biology. Additionally, our board is comprised of industry leaders and local community managers that have experience in building public spaces and urban design.
     
Some of the Urban Rivers Team @ our Summer Fundraiser
Some of the Urban Rivers Team @ our Summer Fundraiser

Risks and challenges

Costs: This project will fund the next phase of the Wild Mile. Future phases will be funded by other fundraising efforts including grants, donations, and future Kickstarters. Our team has a strong track record across all these fundraising channels.

Permits: Permits have been approved from necessary parties for this phase of the Wild Mile (particularly the properties of Waste Management, Whole Foods, and REI). Additional permits are in the process of being obtained.

Maintenance: We will need to manage the upkeep of the floating gardens year-round, adding another administrative aspect to our project. We have, however, anticipated this and have a well-laid out maintenance plan run by qualified staff. In addition, our River Ranger volunteer network has grown now to 50 active Rangers helping clean up trash, maintain the gardens and collect data and we plan to expand this network as the Wild Mile gets built out further.

Natural Disaster: The only possible issues are winter storms and our pilot raft has easily endured through the past two Chicago winters, including the polar vortex of Winter 2015.

Vandalism: Vandalism is a risk with any public space, but we have safeguards in place already including cameras and a dedicated team of volunteers who are our eyes and ears on the river. We also have all the necessary insurance to cover damages.

Legal Hurdles: We have spent over three years navigating all the agencies that oversee the Chicago river. We have approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Coast Guard, Chicago Department of Transportation and the property owners where are permits are. We have also partnered with Epstein Global, one of the best engineering firms in the world to ensure all our designs are beyond code and safe for the public. Any delay or hurdle will be met with solutions. Urban Rivers is here for the long term.

To get further involved as a River Ranger or volunteer please message team@urbanriv.org!

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 25 or more About US$ 25

    The Minnow

    Your support will fund three native plants into our gardens! Our Kickstarter backers are routinely referred to as the coolest people on the Chicago River. Don’t miss your chance to join this elite group of river aficionados with a pledge!

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  2. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 49 or more About US$ 49

    The Bluegill

    Summary: 1 sqft of gardens + 1 year membership (details below)

    For your support, we will add 1 square foot of gardens to the Wild Mile, equipped with plants and all necessary materials. All of the gardens funded by this Kickstarter will be installed by local students with our partner Near North Unity Program to generate much needed habitat for the real locals of the Chicago River (e.g. ducks, monarch butterflies, and other wildlife). Plus, you get a 1 year Urban Rivers membership (Includes: monthly updates, invites to all UR events, and end of year gift).

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  3. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 149 or more About US$ 149

    The Green Sunfish

    Summary: 3sqft of gardens + name engraved on a river rock (one in garden and one sent to you!) + 1 year membership (more details below)

    For your support, we will add 3 square feet of gardens to the Wild Mile with plants and all necessary materials. We will also engrave your name on a 2-3" river rock and send you a duplicate to show off to your friends! Plus, you get a 1 year Urban Rivers membership which includes: monthly updates, invites to all UR events, and end of year gift.

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  4. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 249 or more About US$ 249

    The Black Bullhead

    Summary: same as previous reward (rocks and membership) + 5 total sqft of gardens + sponsor a student's field trip + 1 Kayak Chicago kayak rental

    For your support, we will add 5 square feet of gardens AND sponsor 1 student's field trip to the gardens! We will also engrave your very own 2-3” river rock with your name (or another name of your choosing), place it in the gardens AND a duplicate rock sent back to you for safe keeping (aka to show it off to your friends!). You will also get a kayak rental to see the Wild Mile yourself and a 1 year Urban Rivers membership (which includes monthly updates, invites to all UR events, and end of year gift).

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  5. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 489 or more About US$ 489

    The Channel Catfish

    Summary: same as previous reward (rocks and membership) + 10 total sqft of gardens + 2 total student field trips sponsored + a commemorative Nalgene bottle

    For your pledge, you will add 10 total square feet of gardens AND sponsor 2 student field trips to the Wild Mile!
    Your engraved rock will be placed in the bird platform, which is visible from kayak, and you will get a kayak rental to see it yourself! Lastly, you'll get a sweet commemorative Nalgene bottle to stay hydrated and an annual Urban Rivers membership (which includes monthly updates, invites to all UR events, and end of year gift).

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  6. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 949 or more About US$ 949

    The Largemouth Bass

    Summary: same as previous (rocks, membership, Nalgene) + 20 total sqft of gardens + 4 total funded field trips + a larger, more visible rock + an Urban Rivers zip hoodie (more details below) + 2 total kayak rentals

    For your generous pledge, you will add 20 total square feet of floating gardens AND sponsor 4 students' field trips to the Wild Mile! You will also get an up-sized engraved rock with your name on it (or another name of your choosing) that will be in the front rows of the bird platform, visible by kayak. We will also send you some sweet swag (an Urban Rivers hoodie and Nalgene bottle). Lastly, you will get 2 kayak rental to see the Wild Mile for yourself and 1 year of Urban Rivers membership (which includes monthly updates, invites to all UR events, and an end of year gift).

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  7. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 1,949 or more About US$ 1,949

    The Northern Pike

    Summary: same as previous (larger visible rock, membership, Nalgene, hoodie, 2 kayak rentals) + a floating tree in the floating forest + 30 total sqft of gardens + 5 student field trips sponsored (details below)

    For your generous pledge, you will add 30 total square feet of floating gardens including a FLOATING TREE as part of the floating forest section AND you'll sponsor 5 students' field trips to the Wild Mile! You will also get an up-sized engraved rock with your name on it (or another name of your choosing) that will be in the bird platform (visible by kayak). We will also send you some sweet swag (an Urban Rivers hoodie and Nalgene bottle). Lastly, you will get 2 kayak rental to see the Wild Mile for yourself and 1 year of Urban Rivers membership (which includes monthly updates, invites to all UR events, and an end of year gift).

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    Pledge US$ 3,499 or more About US$ 3,499

    School Of Fish

    Summary: same as previous (larger rocks, kayak rental, membership) + 70 total sqft of gardens + sponsor an entire class field trip + framed thank you card from the students + your larger rock placed in most visible location + floating tree + 1 commemorative Wild Mile Jacket (or 4 Wild Mile t-shirts) + 2 Wild Mile Nalgene bottles (details below)

    For your generous pledge, you will sponsor an entire class field trip to the Wild Mile! Urban Rivers staff will work with the students to install 70 square feet of floating gardens. You will also be sponsoring a floating tree in the floating forest! Additionally, you will get all the rewards from the previous tier (engraved rock sent to you, kayak rental, 1yr membership), plus some new goodies, such as a sweet jacket (or 4 tshirts if you want to share the love), your larger engraved rock in the most visible part of the bird platform, and 2 Wild Mile Nalgene bottles.

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Funding period

- (21 days)