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Calumet City Taking the Lead by Joining the Stormwater Trading Pilot

Calumet City is leveraging a broad range of partnerships and a $1.4 million fast-track investment from State of Illinois’ Rebuild Illinois Program to build the Blues Water Run Park, a riverfront park that may also become the first StormStore™ project in Cook County.

Image courtesy Calumet City
Image courtesy Calumet City

If you were to launch your canoe from Kickapoo Woods in Riverdale, at the furthest upstream reaches of the African American Heritage Water Trail, reverse course and paddle seven flat miles you would reach an ambiguous bend in the river followed by a bridge. The noise of nearly 20,000 cars passing daily overhead, and recent clearing of the uphill scrub and brush, might signal you’ve reached a significant juncture. This is the location of Calumet City ‘s Blues Water Run Park and Canoe Launch (Blues Water Run), which is scheduled to open in Fall 2021. More than just a park, Blues Water Run could be one of the first StormStore™ projects in Cook County; a blueprint for how public parks across the county can provide equitable riverfront access, recreational amenities, and a revenue stream to sustain stewardship of the park years down the road.

On February 10, MPC joined Calumet City and the Blues Water Run project team, including engineering firm Mott MacDonald, and landscape architecture group Site Design, for a virtual public meeting to provide a status update on the planned riverfront park. During the meeting, Mayor Michelle Markiewicz Qualkinbush and City Administrator William Murray shared a vision for this site as a place where resilient infrastructure underpins new amenities, like water-based recreation, walking trails, a dog park, and an outdoor music venue. MPC, and our partners at The Nature Conservancy (TNC), joined the event to celebrate the efforts of the city and project team to bring a StormStore project to market.

Image courtesy Calumet City

StormStore is purpose-built to help communities like Calumet City take the lead in solving local flooding problems, create new park space, and spark economic opportunity. The Blues Water Run site, just beyond the outer ring road and outparcels in the greater River Oaks Center complex, was long dismissed as usable land, in part because of the floodplain that extends through the site. Furthermore, the shuttering of nearby retail and the precipitous job loss, reported elsewhere by MPC, contributed to the site remaining undeveloped. Today, however, projects like Blues Water Run, where an indoor farming company filled a vacant big box store, and retail infilled around River Oaks Center, suggest the city’s outlook may be changing for the better.

StormStore is purpose-built to help communities like Calumet City take the lead in solving local flooding problems, create new park space, and spark economic opportunity.

At StormStore, we believe Calumet City’s success will serve as a blueprint for other communities to take the lead in building new park space and infrastructure. By working with our team, the city will be part of the change in our region, empowering communities to shape their own equitable climate future. StormStore is just one the many tools that should be available across our region. In Calumet City,

StormStore is one piece of a much bigger effort to attract investment back to the River Oaks Center and to Chicago’s Southland. We’re optimistic that Blues Water Run project will become one of many models for how other municipalities and community groups can use stormwater credit trading to build and sustain green space and natural infrastructure.

Next spring, choose to reverse your trip and put your canoe in the upper Little Calumet River at Blues Water Run. While floating down to Kickapoo Woods, or beyond to Little Calumet, look uphill and be reminded of the hidden stormwater assets that have made this improvement project possible. Calumet City took action and used the StormStore tools to create new public assets. This type of leadership, willingness, and creativity is needed throughout the region. At MPC, we look forward to the day when Calumet City is part of a larger group of leaders in the StormStore community.