Giant Green in the Windy City
The city of Chicago recently made headlines by becoming one of the most bike-friendly places as well as for promoting its recycling services. Now it aims to build the biggest urban park - this is remarkable because the city already has several green spaces.
The new project is backed by the state and is said to cost about $17 million - it aims to convert about 140,000 acres of under-used and post-industrial land along the Windy City's southern rim into a public recreation hub called the Millennium Reserve.
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has stated that this urban reserve will boost the economy and create hundreds of jobs. He is also hoping for some amount of private funding for the project. The Sierra club of Illinois released a statement saying that:
"The Millennium Reserve Plan represents the first viable, large-scale attempt to protect and enhance the Lake Calumet area through an integrated, cooperative approach to land and resource management."
This park is said to be bigger than Central Park (843 acres) and 10 times bigger than Manhattan itself. Curently, the biggest park in Chicago is Lincoln Park which occupies an area of 1,200 acres in the lakefront and houses a conservatory, a nature museum and a zoo.
Urban green spaces not only act as essential 'lungs' of a city, but they also provide vast recreational opportunities. In a world where an increasing number of people work indoors, parks are the only way to get in touch with nature. Green spaces also act as ecosystems in their own right by supporting a vast number of species like fox, badger, numerous trees, birds, and, insects including honeybees.
The incorporation of urban greenery is becoming an essential part of city planning. There is a direct correlation between air pollution levels and green spaces. There are also tangible links between human health, productivity and green spaces. Urban greenery also plays a role in increasing property value. City councils are beginning to understand all this as in the last year alone, the 100 largest cities added more than 120 parks in the US.
The Trust for Public Land has released its most recent data on city park systems and according to their findings, Minneapolis and Oakland top the list of park space in the biggest US cities. With the addition of Chicago's new park, the city may well rise considerably from the fourteenth place it currently occupies on the list.
image: Matt Becker via Flickr cc