Calumet Region Sites Green Tour

Calumet Region Sites Green Tour

Volunteers from across Chicago participate in a controlled burn at Powder Horn Prairie Forest Preserve.  (Photo by Kevin P. Murphy)

Canoers enjoy Wolf Lake from the Illinois Side  (Photo by Kevin P. Murphy)


Theater lovers enjoy Chicago Shakespeare Theater/Chicago Park District co-production of a “Shakespeare in the Parks” presentation at Steelworkers Memorial Park, on the former United States Steel Southworks Plant site. (Photo by Kevin P. Murphy)                                                                                                                                         



Southeast Chicago has, for decades, been a leader in efforts to restore sites that had served as a hub of important manufacturing that drove the growth of a young  predominantly agricultural nation to the status of a globally important industrial power.   The unwanted, but inevitable side effects of that growth were the many forms of pollution,  airborne,  land-dumped, and river-saturating, that slowly poisoned the region surrounding those industries, and the occupants thereof, of all species.

While communities accepted the devil’s bargains of increased employment and relative wealth associated with such industrial growth and pollution, the down-sizing and eventual abandonment by many important companies forced people to reconsider the value of continuing to accept the poisons, versus taking action to restore as much environmental health as  possible, in a multi-purposed effort that sought to prevent further “devil’s bargains,” to clean up the poisons as completely as possible, and to  restore what had once been a rich natural treasure.  

Thus, concerted community effort gained increasing influence in the latter part of the 20th century, as groups like the Alliance for the Great Lakes, the Association for the Wolf Lake Initiative (AWLI),  Bold Chicago Institute/Calumet is My Backyard, the Calumet Ecological Park Association (CEPA), the Calumet Heritage Partnership (CHP), Chicago Department of Environment/Chicago Conservation Corps (CDOE/C3), Chicago Park District (CPD), Chicago Public Schools (CPS), Chicago State University (CSU), Chicago Wilderness, Field Museum’s Calumet Environmental Education Program (CEEP), and its Center for Cultural Understanding and Change (CCUC), Forest Preserve District of Cook County (FPDCC), Friends of the Chicago River, Friends of Dan Ryan Woods, Friends of The Forest Preserves (FOTFP), Friends of the Parks (FOTP), Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelly Foundation, Hammond Parks & Recreation, Hegewisch Chamber of Commerce, Historic Pullman Foundation, Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS), Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and Environmental Learning Center, Little Calumet River Access Project, Openlands Project, Purdue University Calumet, Save the Dunes Council, Shedd Aquarium, Sierra Club, Southeast Chicago Historical Society (SECHS), Southeast Environmental Task Force, and the United Urban Network, among others, joined together in the Calumet Stewardship Initiative (CSI) to design and conduct projects aimed at restoring the region’s environmentally troubled sites.    Now, late in the second decade of the 21st Century, it is those surviving members of that same brilliant coalition who will be even more important in preserving their accomplishments and continuing to extend their dedicated work to the remaining “troubled” sites, in an era when  the term “environmentally responsible federal government” seems destined to become an oxymoron.

The Southeast Chicago Green Sites Tour was designed to spotlight green buildings,  green gardens, and green open spaces, many of which were — and still are — works in progress that depend on continued work to sustain their environmental health.  As this is being written, there are 41 such sites included in the tour, which is concentrated heavily in Southeast Chicago’s 10th Ward, the largest part of the city with open spaces.  

However, as the list of participating organizations suggests, there is more to be included that lies within Northwest Indiana.  It is our intention to extend this Green Sites Tour to include all that we are capable of identifying and connecting with this site.  


We originally designed the Green Sites Tour to be conducted by a guide, on a bus, during an annual Green celebration.   A declining economy eventually destroyed that option.   However, in desperation to sustain the Green Sites Tour, we plunged headlong into the digital age, and discovered a promising alternative to the annual (and very time-limited) bus tour option.  This new touch of digital magic was a graphic item known as a QR tag, a sample of which is shown, below:

We have created weather-resistant posters for mounting at each of the 41 sites now on the tour.  Each poster contains the name of its site, a comment or two about it, and a QR tag that will link the site visitor to that site’s data page on this website.  To the extent that we have such information, the site’s page may have a section on its history, as well as photos and/or videos related to that site.  

It will also be possible, from that connection, to identify the other 40 sites of the tour and (a), plot a route to the next site or (b), visit them all via one’s smart phone or tablet, without covering the ground in between.

Thus, the Green Sites Tour is now available as a self-initiated and self-guided experience, to be taken whenever — and however -- one pleases.


One lesson for us has been that reduction in, or complete loss of, funding need not derail a worthwhile project.

Another has been that technological advances in media need to be examined for their potential to open up possibilities that might otherwise never  occur to us.

Calumet Region Sites Green Tour © 2017 Kevin P. Murphy & Joann Podkul Murphy

© Kevin Murphy & Joann Podkul Murphy 2016