Project Would Create Hike-And-Bike Path From Millennium Park To Ind. Dunes

CHICAGO (CBS) — OK, outdoor lovers: Imagine riding your bike from Millennium Park all the way to the Indiana Dunes. It’s part of an ambitious new conservation initiative.

CBS 2’S Roseanne Tellez reports on a plan that would be sure to transform Chicago’s long-neglected Southeast Side.

Local, state and federal officials joined together Friday to announce the Millennium Reserve Initiative, which would create the hiking-and-biking trails linking the two regions.

Phase one would transform the once industrial area surrounding Lake Calumet, turning it into a tourist destination while closing the Burnham Gap and restoring the lakefront. But the project also aims to create jobs and eventually expand Chicago’s green space by 140,000 acres.

“Our lake is our Grand Canyon, is our Yellowstone Park,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said at a news conference.

Emanuel says the scope of the project allows officials to tap into federal funds earmarked for American’s great outdoors. It may also represent a trend toward urban conservation.

“There’s a legacy of industrial development here, but alongside that industrial development are some of the jewels of the South Side of Chicago,” says Marc Miller, director of the state Department of Natural Resources.

Peggy Salazar says the nature has been here all along and it’s time the Chicago area discovered what’s in its own backyard.

The state is laying out nearly $18 million from Illinois Jobs Now to launch the project. It’s basically a down payment.

Millennium Reserve combines a slew of smaller projects from various organizations under one umbrella to leverage more federal money.

How long until you can ride on that bike path? Probably a couple of years, and much longer for the bigger project.

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