Chicago Riverwalk Hosts Opening Celebration This Weekend, With Sights To Rediscover

CHICAGO (CBS) – There will be quite a celebration along the banks of the Chicago River this Saturday. The backdrop for the all-day party is Chicago’s expanding Riverwalk.

CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole visited a spot many have yet to rediscover.

At river’s edge, you can take a walk on the mild side.

With cleaner recreational waters and a wide promenade, many are discovering the evolving Riverwalk for the first time.

“I’ve been here three or four times and I’ve lived in Chicago for 20-plus years,” said Andrea Usenik, Chicago.

“I’ll get on at Franklin and walk out to Lake Shore Drive,” said Glenn Luebke, of Arlington Heights. “It’s just a wonderful path.”

Along the way, one will find spots to sit back and enjoy the river view, or artful canopies protecting pedestrians from overhead debris. This year the city’s adding floating gardens and fishing piers at the western end.

CBS: How many years have you been working on this project?

“Since 2002,” said Michelle Woods, the Riverwalk’s project manager.

One might call it her baby.

“We started working on the Riverwalk back in the 1990’s,” Woods said.

Reconstruction of lower Wacker Drive allowed the city to create the wide setbacks making the walk possible.

“The roadway was actually realigned so we could capture more space,” Woods said.

Tax revenues from 11 vendors pays back the $99-million federal loan that financed the latest expansion.

“We have bike rentals, kayak rentals, electric boat rentals,” Woods said.

“There were years we couldn’t experience the Riverwalk or run along it,” said Brooke Webster, City Winery.

Webster manages the City Winery, one of four vendors grossing over $1-million during the operating season.

“It exceeds out expectations every week,” Webster said.

This Saturday the city is inviting everyone on down to the Riverwalk for an all-day celebration for the annual raising of Chicago’s bridges. It includes walking tours, fish puppet parades for the kids, party boat cruises into the evening, and a pyrotechnic waterfall to cap it all off.

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