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!
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:
- Install 1,000 sq ft of additional habitat
- 120+ student kayak field trips (all expenses paid)
- Begin building the Floating Forest
- Install 2,000 sq ft of additional habitat
- 240+ student kayak field trips (all expenses paid)
- Expand our floating gardens
- Install 3,000 sq ft of additional habitat and
- 360+ student kayak field trips (all expenses paid)
- Expand our floating walkways
- 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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