Calumet City breaks ground on Blues Water Run Kayak Park

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By Quinton Arthur

CALUMET CITY, Ill. (May 4, 2021) – Calumet City celebrated Earth Day in a major way by holding a public ceremony for the groundbreaking of the new Blues Water Run Kayak Park. The public event was attended by Calumet City officials, residents, and the press.

Moderated by City Administrator William Murray, the April 22 event started with a presentation of the flags and the Pledge of Allegiance led by Boy Scout Troop 267B and Troop 219G.

Blues Water Run
Two Boy Scout troops led those assembled at the Blues Water Run Kayak Park groundbreaking in the Pledge of Allegiance. (Photo: Quinton Arthur)

Blues Water Run funding and details

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Under the direction of former Calumet City Mayor Michelle Qualkinbush, the project has been ongoing for over two years, with over 13 acres of land dedicated as part of the development. The park will be located on the Little Calumet River, near the border of Calumet City and Lansing along Torrence Avenue.

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This rendering shows some of the features of Blues Water Run. (Graphic courtesy of Site Design Group, Ltd. and Calumet City)

The $2.4 million budget was raised through a combination of grants and investments from Pace Suburban Bus, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

The grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity was awarded by Governor J.B. Pritzker as part of the state’s Fast-Track Public Infrastructure Capital Program.

Murray says Blues Water Run will not only bring a beautiful park to Calumet City, but will bring economic benefits as well. “The idea is that this is not only recreation, but to drive people to this area,” he said.

Calumet City
This map shows the locations of nearby trails as well as proposed trails to connect Blues Water Run to the surrounding area. (Graphic from calumetcity.org)

In addition to the funds raised for the event, the city will receive storm credits from the Metropolitan Planning Council. For redirecting overflow water into the river, Calumet City will receive credits which they can sell as additional investments into maintaining the park.

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The partners in helping to plan the park were Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, Cook County Forest Preserve District, Illinois Geological Society, Metropolitan Planning Council & Nature Conservancy of Illinois, Mixdesign, Mott McDonald Engineering & Site Design, Northwest Indiana Paddling Association, and University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.

Park vision

City officials are planning for Blues Water Run to be a family-oriented recreation spot that will have activities like kayaking, community plays, cross country meets, and other outdoor activities.

Former Mayor Qualkinbush believes the park is a step in the right direction for the city.

“It is going to be a wonderful opportunity for Calumet City residents,” said Qualkinbush. “We have such wonderful partners who have come forward for the city and we can’t be more thankful for this.”

Former Calumet City Mayor Michelle Qualkinbush addressed the crowd on Earth Day, April 22. (Photo: Quinton Arthur)

Qualkinbush’s last day in office was Friday, April 29. The four-term mayor lost the primary election against State Senator Thaddeus Jones, who was sworn into office as Calumet City’s first Black mayor on May 1.

Dog park

The Bossy Bonato Dog Park at Blues Water Run was named in honor of Roes Bonato, former Mayor Qualkinbush’s executive assistant. Bonato has found homes for over 100 dogs this year alone, showing her dedication to the wellness of animals.

Safety and security

Former Calumet City Police Chief Christopher Fletcher assured that the park would be a safe space for all to enjoy.

“Safety and security is the number one thing we think about when we have something new that opens up,” Fletcher assured those present at the groundbreaking. “The Calumet City police department will be patrolling and have a presence here 24/7 — 365 coupled with video surveillance around the whole area.”

Breaking ground at Blues Water Run

The groundbreaking ended as Mayor Qualkinbush joined four sisters, Jaya, Jaliyah, Jessah, and Janai Tate, to plant the park’s first trees. The Tates have been regular volunteers at the Calumet City Farmer’s Market.

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From left to right: Mayor Qualkinbush and Jaya, Jaliyah, Jessah, and Janai Tate plant the first tree at Blues Water Run. (Photo: Quinton Arthur)

As Blues Water Run slowly progresses toward completion, Calumet City hopes it will eventually serve not only Calumet City but all the south suburbs of Chicago.

Once finished, conceptual renderings show the area will be accessed from Ring Road, immediately west of Tilly’s Pit & Pub in Calumet City.

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