Natural Solutions Tool Wins Climate Champion Award

Margaret Frisbie (at lectern) accepts the Chicago Innovation Award with Friends' Adam Flickinger (middle ground left) and TPL's Sam Kiley.

Friends of the Chicago River is thrilled to announce that we are recognized as a Climate Champion at the Chicago Innovation Awards with the Trust for Public Land (TPL) for our leadership in creating the Natural Solutions Tool. The awards were presented on Thursday, November 16.

The Natural Solutions Tool 

Award winners in 20 prestigious categories were announced at a gala at the UIC Forum attended by Governor JB Pritzker, Mayor Brandon Johnson, and other top nonprofit, civic, and business leaders. Chicago Innovation’s Climate Change Initiative was established to elevate the issue of the devastating impact of climate change and to promote and amplify solutions to it such as the Natural Solutions Tool.

“People need nature and nature needs people—and the planet needs our help” said Margaret Frisbie, Friends of the Chicago River's executive director, upon receiving the award. “And we know if we work with nature we can combat the climate crisis, create healthy communities, and protect and improve our planet for people and wildlife using the Natural Solutions Tool.”

The Tool was created as part of our Greater Chicago Watershed Alliance and Friends of the Chicago River and TPL spent 18 months engaging experts, community members, and the technical wizards from TPL to create this massive decision support tool. It was adapted from TPL’s Climate Smart Cities™ initiative by their technical team with input from hundreds of Chicago area subject matter experts contributing to the Tool.

 The Natural Solutions Tool is a free, user-friendly mapping portal developed with local data by local experts, with 84 customizable public health, biodiversity, stormwater, equity, and connectivity GIS layers for nearly 1.5 million parcels in 176 communities that cover the Chicago River, Calumet River, and Des Plaines River watersheds. The Tool focuses strategic investments on nature-based green infrastructure, prioritizes communities of greatest need, and reveals opportunities across a broad regional watershed where the power of nature can be employed to capture stormwater and improve community and environmental health. It emerged from a vision for more strategic and collaborative watershed-wide investments in nature-based solutions set by the Greater Chicago Watershed Alliance, a coalition launched by Friends of the Chicago River in 2020. 

“The Chicago region continues to be a global leader in innovation” said Tom Kuczmarski, co-founder with Chicago journalist Dan Miller of the awards. “The 2023 winners are solving unmet needs and making a difference in healthcare, science, logistics, art, food and beverage, consumer products, environment, industrial, energy, education, finance, manufacturing, social services, legal, HR and workforce development.”  

“Nearly 350 organizations nominated for this year’s awards,” said Luke Tanen, President and CEO of Chicago Innovation. “The winners represent the best from this very impressive group.” 

The complete list of this year’s Chicago Innovation Award winners will be posted at