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Reconnecting Riverdale Community to the Riverfront

Ted Slowik/Daily Southtown

Since 2018, the Metropolitan Planning Council has been tracking the progress of riverfront projects funded through The Chicago Community Trust’s support for Great Rivers Chicago and the Our Great Rivers vision. So far, 20 projects have been supported by The Trust, and are continuing to make major changes throughout the river system. Learn more about these projects in MPC’s interactive story map

Chicago’s Riverdale community is nestled along the Little Calumet River and is home to Beauben Woods Forest Preserve. This provides the community with ample fishing opportunities in the Little Calumet and in Flatfoot Lake, one of only a few boat ramps along the Little Calumet, and a trail that passes through several natural areas. Despite this, many residents do not consider the Little Calumet River among the community’s assets. The Calumet Collaborative is working with community residents and other partners to change this.  

The Calumet Collaborative catalyzes innovative partnerships between Illinois and Indiana community, government, business, and nonprofit stakeholders to advance a thriving Calumet region. The Calumet Collaborative is dedicated to achieving inclusive regional prosperity and improving quality of life by focusing the attention and resources of diverse stakeholders on priorities and on-the-ground work that integrate community, economic, and environmental values and have regional impact.

In anticipation of natural area expansions along the Little Calumet River in the Riverdale community, local leaders, including youth, will co-develop programming that draws residents to the river and amplify rich local histories of water, food, and land. Today, the Little Calumet River is recognized for its historical significance as an Underground Railroad site. Calumet Collaborative hopes that these conversations will intentionally build from these assets and pivot towards visioning for ongoing environmental and human health as we well as wealth-building connections to water and land.

 As part of the Great Rivers Grant through the Chicago Community Trust, Calumet Collaborative will lead community programming on the water and riverbanks; community planning for future land use along the riverbank and for sustainable economic development; and buildout of community-managed riverbank sites. Calumet Collaborative hopes that these efforts will complement other planning processes in the community and better position Riverdale residents to benefit from the upcoming Red Line expansion.