November 24, 2016 Environmental Conservation Written by Guest Contributor
Urban rivers project
Rivers throughout our country are in poor

condition, and according to an EPA study, it was stated 55-65% of our rivers have a high to medium level of toxicity. Let’s look at urban waterways, in particular, the Chicago River. The Chicago River once had a natural riverbank and plentiful vegetation, but is now outlined by steel seawalls. Urban Rivers Project is facilitating the design and implementation of floating gardens on the Chicago River to be enjoyed by the community and its visitors. Imagine paddling through native vegetation and experiencing local habitat with the Chicago skyline in the background; a wildlife destination in the city. This is the main vision.

Urban Rivers’ initiative is to install 600 feet of floating garden in the Chicago River by Spring 2017. The pilot project will be located on the East side of Goose Island, in the North Branch of the Chicago River.

uran riversUrban Rivers’ strategic objectives are as follows:

  • Beautify the Chicago landscape
  • Recover local habitats (aquatic, birds, turtles, etc)
  • Help minimize pollutants and litter
  • Drive traffic to local businesses
  • Educate the public and local schools about native wildlife and habitat restoration
  • Conduct scientific research on the environmental efficacy of the floating garden installation

This concept is supported by research conducted by Josh Yellin, one of Urban Rivers’s four founders. As part of his Master’s capstone, “Evaluating the Efficacy of an Artificial Fish Habitat in the Chicago River”, he conducted research by implementing and monitoring a 5’ x 10’ floating garden (seen above) with native plants on the Chicago River. He proved fish populations increase due to the presence of artificial gardens. Their pilot floating garden is in its third growing season with volunteer plant species growing while becoming a home to different animals.

Consider joining Urban Rivers and their sponsors, Whole Foods, Patagonia, and Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD), in reclaiming the lost river habitat and connecting communities to it once again. For more information, visit or see their Kickstarter campaign at


This is a guest post written by Zachary Damato.
Zachary DamatoZachary founded his first company after Purdue turning Norman Distribution into a multi-million dollar food distribution & marketing company. He stepped away to engage in internships ranging from professional cooking, farming and Techstars. He co-founded Urban River Project focusing on Urban River restoration. He’s an advocate for decentralizing our food system, Industrial Hemp and eating amazing food. He’s currently COO of Niwa; building connected indoor grow systems for fruits, vegetables and other plants.