Illinois Boosts Ecology, Community along Lake Michigan Industrial Corridor

The Takeaway: Habitat restoration, multiuse trails, an accessible kayak launch, a more effective port district—the Illinois Coastal Management Program helps bring a fresh new spirit to this area.

The Calumet Collaborative, operating in coastal Illinois and Indiana, aims through conservation, restoration, and recreation activities to reconnect Americans to a rich wetlands ecosystem along Lake Michigan, areas of which had been polluted or neglected by past industrial development. A major partner in this effort is the Illinois Coastal Management Program, part of the state’s Department of Natural Resources, which led efforts to establish the initiative and has provided $1.6 million in grants (plus other assistance) to restore habitat, expand multiuse trails, increase access to paddling adventures, and more.

The Illinois Coastal Management Program co-founded the Calumet Conservation Compact, which has restored 1,166 acres of habitat through an agreement with seven area landowners. The coastal program secured grants of more than $2.8 million through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and Sustain Our Great Lakes, which were matched by $2 million from the landowners.

The state’s coastal management program also provided support and staffing for two projects that convert obsolete rail lines into multiuse trails. The Cal-Sag Trail eventually will run 26 miles and connect to five regional trails near marinas and nature preserves. The 7.6-mile Major Taylor Trail links several Chicago southwest-side neighborhoods. It is named after 19th century African American cyclist Marshall “Major” Taylor, who set several world records.

Coming later in 2021 is a kayak landing at Chicago’s William W. Powers State Recreation Area that will reflect Americans with Disabilities Act specifications.

Finally, two grants by the Illinois Coastal Management Program are helping the Illinois International Port District strengthen its degraded infrastructure, finances, and administrative operations (read more about these port grants and improvements).

The Calumet Collaborative serves southeastern Chicago and southern Cook County in Illinois and Lake, Porter, and LaPorte Counties in northwestern Indiana. Its service area is home to more than one million residents, and it spans more than 900 square miles covering 70-plus municipalities, five interstate highways, six class 1 railroads, and three commuter rail lines. It is bookended by two national parks—Pullman National Monument in Illinois and the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. (2021)

Partners: Calumet Collaborative, City of Chicago, Cook County, and Illinois Department of Transportation and Department of Natural Resources’ Coastal Management Program