Public Land Natural Area Assessment Tool

Friends of the Chicago River partnered with Arcadis U.S., Inc. to develop the Public Land Natural Area Assessment Tool  to assess the conditions and qualities of all public land along the entire Chicago River system. 

Our team established a ½-mile corridor on both sides of the river as the focus for our map and collected data from local, state, and federal sources to build the layers. The data was then compiled into an interactive online mapping application that can be searched, explored, and analyzed to provide a deeper, richer understanding of the living Chicago River system. The mapping tool allows users to visualize:

  • Ownership and land use of parcels
  • Shoreline characteristics of the river system
  • Combined Sewage Overflow outfall locations
  • Existing and proposed river-edge trails
  • Public river access points
  • Soil and drainage potential of the land
  • The location of flood zones
  • Wetlands, oak habitats, and other natural resources

The mapping tool is an exciting resource for Friends and our partners, and has already revealed a plethora of information about the character of the Chicago River System. Example statistics revealed through our initial analysis include:

  • 48% of the 536 miles of river shoreline is publicly owned
  • 75% of the 536 miles of river shoreline has a natural edge
  • Over 37,000 acres of open space are located within a 1/2 mile of the Chicago River system
  • 76% of this open space is publicly owned property

Friends continues to explore this compiled data, which reinforces our vision of the river as a continuously-connected natural blue-green corridor. Our findings from the mapping analysis help us to identify new opportunities to enhance, restore, and improve the river system for the benefit of people and wildlife, as well as allows us to better focus our conservation efforts to areas with the most substantial opportunity.