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Roughly every three days, one person biking or walking is killed by someone driving a car in the Chicago region.

Clean environment essential for Chicago River Trail

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Whether in an urban or rural setting, along a body of water, or through the mountains, the environment is often what distinguishes our favorite trails from each other.

Trails with clean air and water, healthy plants and wildlife encourage more people to use them for recreation and transportation.

Although the city has made progress cleaning up the Chicago River, we're concerned about a mysterious oil spill that happened in late October along the 1.5-mile stretch of the South Fork of the South Branch — a section of river commonly known as Bubbly Creek.

Recently, Active Trans joined our partner, the South Branch Park Advisory Council, and neighborhood residents to hear an update about the spill from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). Over fifty people attended this meeting at the Eleanor Street Boathouse in Bridgeport.

To date, the oil spill caused the death of a Canadian goose, one seagull, four turtles, forty-three fish and widespread concern among community residents. The US EPA responded to the spill and wrapped up clean-up efforts (pictured) on November 8. You can read updates about the spill here.

While the technical response to this incident is over, we can take this opportunity to push for policy solutions that improve the river's water quality and natural habitat. Taking action will also improve the quality of life in communities along the river and in turn help set the stage for a continuous river trail.

Let's use this tragic incident to remind decision-makers that the river has been neglected for far too long, especially in areas along the South Branch like Bubbly Creek and the Collatoral Channel. The river has been used to dispose of food waste, industry materials, animals and as a sewage overflow on rainy days.

Given this history, it's easy to understand why communities in this area have difficulty seeing the Chicago River's potential.

A clean environment is a top priority of our campaign for a continuous Chicago River Trail. Cleaning up the environment is a critical first step towards developing a trail. That's the only way we'll be able to turn the Chicago River into an asset all Chicagoans can enjoy.

Do you want to take action and help address environmental concerns? Click here to sign up for Chicago River Trail campaign updates.

Photo credit: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency