Employing Our Open Space Assets

In March of 2015, Friends of the Chicago River and Openlands began public presentations on a new tool that quantifies the conservation, recreation, and stormwater potential of public lands owned by Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD).

The MWRD is the second largest landowner in Cook County after the Forest Preserves of Cook County. Their 1,023 parcels here hold massive potential to help manage stormwater using the natural landscape and innovative green infrastructure, while providing potential for the essential ancillary benefits of green open space.

The Land Use Assessment Tool is a GIS database that starts with all 1,023 MWRD properties in Cook County. Our team’s Geographic Information Systmes (GIS) expert then applied 27 data layers to the parcels to reveal the potential value of MWRD lands as they relate to stormwater management, public recreation, and wildlife habitat. Garnered from dozens of government and nonprofit sources, the layers range from flood plain maps to existing, planned, and proposed trails to areas where threatened and endangered species can be found. Each layer tells a story and together they paint a comprehensive vision of opportunity for how we can work together as a region to take advantage of our open space to achieve goals such as reduced flooding, more and better trails, and healthier wildlife habitat.

“This tool provides useful information that will help the District identify ‘value-added’ opportunities for District property,” said MWRD Executive Director David St. Pierre.

For more information about the Land Use Assessment, contact John Quail, director of watershed planning, at (312) 939-0490, ext. 20 or jquail@chicagoriver.org.