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Giant Floating Garden Coming To Chicago River Near Goose Island

By Justin Breen | September 1, 2016 5:34am | Updated on November 12, 2016 10:08am

EDITOR'S NOTE: Urban Rivers recently launched a fundraiser that already has met its $10,000 goal. The fundraiser has raised almost $16,000 as of Saturday morning (See Video Below).

CHICAGO — By this time next year, a giant island garden will be floating in the Chicago River near Goose Island.

Nonprofit Urban Rivers, which already has a tiny 5-foot-by-10-foot floating island of plantlife in the Chicago River near the Whole Foods on Kingsbury Street in Lincoln Park, has plans to install a much larger version in May 2017.

Urban Rivers' permits allow the nonprofit to place a 600-foot-long mass of plastic mesh on top of the river. The 12-inch-thick mesh, which will be attached by poles to steel beams that hug the river near the Whole Foods, will contain a variety of plantlife that will provide cover for birds, fish, bugs, turtles and other wildlife, according to Urban Rivers co-founder Nick Wesley. It will rise and fall at the same rate as the river does, Wesley said.

RELATED: You Won't Believe How Many Species Of Fish Now Swim In The Chicago River

The floating island, which will extend as much as 10 feet into the river waters from the beams, will have no soil, Wesley said. The plants will grow only from the nutrients the river provides, as has been the case with the current floating island, which this year produced cherry tomatoes.

"We hope this island is going to provide an area for fish and plants and animals, who will use it for food and shelter," Wesley said. "I feel like this is going to be a turning point for the Chicago River."

Wesley said Urban Rivers is working with botanists to determine which plants will be installed on the island. The plants likely will include milkweed and other flora that attract butterflies, Wesley said.

Kayakers and other paddlers also will be able to get close to the island, which will be surrounded by small chicken wire fences, Wesley said.

"Our project creates a destination where we can bring together the creative minds of Chicago, its natural habitat and communities to truly feel how a healthy river can bring so much positivity," Urban Rivers co-founder Zach Damato said.

Urban Rivers' plan is separate from the mega "Our Great Rivers" effort outlined in August by city officials that calls for an intricate network of tourism, transportation and recreation to weave through the Chicago River, Des Plaines River and Calumet River.

The original Urban Rivers plant-filled island was installed in 2013. Its success has in part fueled the development of the much larger version, Wesley said.

Wesley said a crowdfunding project and kickoff party for the project are set for November, with more details to come.

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