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Dear River Bank Friends,
The days have been mild. The rain, tho not enough, has been gentle.
We still have lots to do, pruning and weeding, and fixing trails and walls.
Please join us tomorrow for stewardship, 9-11:00. (Saturday Aug 27th)
Look for us between Berteau and Hutchinson.
Afterwards we can share some lunch if you are able.
Hope to see you,

We shall meet you at the river

Aug 13, 2022

Dear Riverbank Neighbors,
Join us tomorrow morning for a stewardship workday: weeding, pruning and repairing. We can do a wildflower walk to test our flower ID skills, and Pete can bring you up-to-date on the Waters School Crisis. Please visit and sign  the petition and leave a comment. We are hoping to reach 1,000 signatures by Tuesday’s LSC meeting.
Meet at the River and Berteau Ave. 9:00 – 11:00
Many thanks, 

August River Sunday mornings

Aug 6, 2022

Dear Riverbank Neighbors and new community members,

If you haven’t heard what’s happened to Pete Leki, stewardship and protection of Waters Garden, or the entire ecology program, then please read here.

If you appreciate what Pete brings to the community,
if you love the riverbank,
love Waters Garden,
appreciate the ecology program K-8 at Waters for decades, bringing generations of Waters students to the Riverbank,
the forest, the lake, and the garden,
if you appreciate the Environmental Justice activism we do,
please lend a hand and send him a message of support that can be posted publicly, as well as signing the petition on the website.  (we’re not asking donations right now)

Please check here to get updates, read other peoples letters of support, and read the other newspaper articles and newsletters by Pete.

back to Riverbank Neighbors…

We’ve scheduled three scheduled upcoming August Riverbank mornings.

9-11AM Sunday August 7th, 14th, and 21st.

Sometimes we have to change the schedule due to rain or heatwave or other unforeseen event. Check the website calendar for updates, rain dates, or any scheduling changes on the day of the event.  We usually meet at Berteau unless indicated otherwise, on the east side of the Chicago River.  

Hope to see you at the river tomorrow, Sunday at 9.

True need for solidarity

Dear community, This is a true call for support, for solidarity with Riverbank Neighbors and Waters Garden, because the ability of the community to protect Waters Garden from destruction, the ability for Pete Leki to continue to take the next generation of students to the lake, the forest, the river, the garden, and to learn to be intelligent and strong forces for a healthy future for themselves on this planet, all of this work is under true threat, true peril.

Chicago Public Schools have destroyed parts of the garden time and again. The community has had to rise up over and over, to protect the garden, stealing our family and work time.

The Waters Ecology and Riverbank Neighbors community are intertwined and have shared common communities, common organizers, shared shovels and work ethics. We both are advocates for justice, environmental and social justice. We are activists, advocating for clean water (the river/lake), clean air (solidarity/hunger strike with General Iron protestors), clean land (in so many ways), and for protection and support for those of us in need, disempowered by the forces that be.

There isn’t time to fully explain the present peril. Envision the best of the riverbank and waters community and then envision our last steward gone, replaced by a low-paid part time contractor employed and controlled by CPS. If you want to take action, here are some ideas:

  1. Pete Leki invites you to the garden this morning 10-12. Please email him if you can come early or on time and help set up.
  2. Write a letter of support. Or at least, quickly email that you are looking for ways to come together.
  3. Make a note to read the news coming your way from Pete in coming days.

It’s exhausting to fight these battles. But, if we shy away, what is good will be left unprotected. I ask Riverbank Neighbors far and wide, and long out of touch, please write to Pete. Let him know you are there. This isn’t just about him and what he does, it’s about what he enables the community to do at the Riverbank and in the places where he is one of the last stewards standing.

~from other stewards of the Riverbank

Election advocacy

Dear Neighbors, I’m putting Election day on our google calendar.

I’m inviting you all to do the same. Actually, as some of you know, we’ve got quite a few people in the neighborhood who’ve spent most of their lives volunteering for campaigns, so they would advise us to reflect on our commitment to having a good result in the next election .. how much does it matter? Would you like to join a group that is working together to make a difference? There are many good organizations to join, working for causes you believe in, of course.

People who work on campaigns and advocacy spend time in weeks and months before elections, making phone calls, going door to door, and working on elections. Maybe some of you would like to share your experiences. I’d like to find a way to share your stories. Please let me know. Jules

Event-Summer Solstice Beach bike ride June 21 Tues 6pm or meet us at Montrose Beach at 7pm

Dear neighbors, for 20+ years, the Riverbank Neighbors community has celebrated the Summer Solstice. It’s an event to celebrate the work, the beauty of nature, to share news of births and passings, and to welcome new community members. This year, we’re going to the beach and you’re invited.

If you would like to bike with us, please gather at Berteau at 6pm. There’s a group of us who do this often, even on hot days. It takes about 25 minutes at a gentle pace. We’ll follow the most calm bike route possible, kids on sidewalks with adult guides if the group is small. If the group is large and we have enough experienced bike leaders, it will be similar to a kidical mass ride. We ask all riders to only be positive and kind and wave or ring bells and say “thank you” to cars who kindly (or impatiently) wait for the bikes to pass. We will be biking all the way to the lake and back (with ~ 60-90 min of beach time in between) We’ll probably have kids with us, but please only bring kids with who have biked that distance before and bring plenty of water, extra to use to cool off. We have several 8 and 10 years olds who do it often, but it’s a hot day. We biked it yesterday with kids, not problem, so just bring water, and bring bike lights or reflective vests for the ride home.

Those who don’t want to bike are invited to join us at the beach at 7.. maybe by the bus or carpool. We’ll mark our spot on the beach with the big kite-like pinwheel that we often have had up at events in the past, so you can find us, unless the wind is too strong, in which case, we’ll stick near one of the lifeguard stations to the south side of Montrose Beach.

Suggested items to pack: beach blanket or towel, sunglasses for wind, drinks and/or nut-free food (there’s also “The Dock” restaurant at the beach or hot dog stands, of course), kites, toys for kids to build sand castles. ** bike lights and/or reflective items. If you don’t have them, it’s a good day to visit a local bike store.

Check back here for updates. Hope to see you there.


Upcoming Events…

Wed, June 15 Honorary Bike Ride- Lincoln Square More info here

Sat, June 18 Welles Park Eco-Fest more info here

Fri, June 17 6-7 Seeds and Weeds along the riverbank with Jules. Join at Berteau. pleasant, light work, peaceful time to enjoy nature and be with community. weather dependent. check the calendar, email, or facebook page for updates.

Hold the date.  Tues, June 21 Solstice. Different than the past. Activism for bike safety. Ceremony to recognize heroes in our midst. Ceremony to commemorate those lost to cars going too fast and toxic car culture. We’ll learn about ways to save lives, learn some songs, learn some native flowers in bloom.  and we’ll see old and new friends. Please email if you’d like to help organize or do setup/tear down for our solstice gathering. Perhaps we’ll go one a RBN bike ride.  Other ideas are being considered, weather dependent.

Please check for updates on our Riverbank Neighbor calendar.

Eco-Fest: see you there

Eco-Fest Welles Park
June 18 from 10 AM to 2 PM

The Green Council, Riverbank Neighbors, Waters Garden, and many other local environmental groups will be at the eco-fest. Please mark your calendars and come on by and say hello.

Gratitude to the 47th Ward’s youth and green councils, Alderman Matt Martin, Andi Aguila, the 47th Ward’s director of Small Business Affairs, the Welles Park Advisory Council and all those who’ve organized the fest. (and apologies for any I’ve missed, please let me know and I’ll amend this) Check out the website to see all the interesting things going on. We’d love to see you there! Here’s the link

Any of you who are part of Riverbank Neighbors or Waters Garden, we would love if you’d join us at our table. Hang out, make it easier and more fun! Email us to rsvp if you can join. At 10:40 we’ll be singing in the Gazebo, so arrive early for that if you’d like to join and know the songs or have a Waters student who wants to sing the songs they know well from field trips.

This is also an event where anyone wanting to do something to channel their anger and grief over the loss of three beloved precious humans from our families and communities. Two little children and one longtime neighbor, all killed by crashes on roads designed to prioritize fast cars, not human safety. We can do better. Learn more here This 8 min video is the best we could find to very very quickly open people’s mind to a whole new kind of street design, one that studies show, saves many many lives and would have saved the lives of Lily, Raffi, and Peter.
Riverbank Neighbors aims to be better advocates for safety to work for safer streets.
Please email us if you watch this video, tell us your thoughts and if you’d like to organize some bike and pedestrian and safety advocacy/education in the name of Lily, Raffi, Peter, and others taken from us too soon.

Hope to See you Saturday, June 18, Welles Park, EcoFest

Ward Night Out with Ald. Martin and the 47th Ward Green Council

💧Next month is Chicago River Month! Let’s celebrate the important work of Riverbank Neighbors, Friends of the Chicago River, and others. Join Alder Matt Martin for a drinks and discussion about environmental issues at Burning Bush Brewery.

This event is a part of a new initiative called “Ward Night Out” that brings neighborhood updates and ward services directly to neighbors. You will also have the opportunity to learn how you can get involved in environmental issues locally, and meet other neighborhoods who are committed to addressing the climate crisis.

📅 May 12 🕓 7:00pm 🔗

Possible Partial Burn, weather dependent

Tomorrow, April 3, we scheduled a possible burn and workday at the River (at Berteau). The weather is “iffy” for a burn, but we will be ready if a window opens. There is plenty of other work to do, so please join us. If we do proceed with a burn, please keep children well away from the fire, so they won’t be in harms way and we won’t be worried and distracted.  The workday is scheduled from 12-2. If you can help set up, please come early (11:30, 11:45.) It might  be that the wind shift happens at 2:00, meaning that we might burn after the workday. Please stand by.

Controlled Burn notice

Dear Neighbors, in coming days, when the weather is right, Riverbank Neighbors will be conducting a controlled burn of some sections of the Riverbank at Berteau on the east side of the Chicago River.

During the burn, please stay well back and don’t distract the crew. Thank you.

A wonderful video about the much larger controlled burns conducted in the forest preserves of Illinois are is here.

And another completely fantastic short video, highlighting the beautiful flowers of the region and a local photographer, Mike MacDonald is here:

These a really spectacular little film clips. Please share them with your family and your block club list. The clips show the larger effort that our work is inspired by, the North Branch Restoration Project. more to come..

Many thanks to all who attended our workday last weekend.

We prepped the riverbank for the coming burn, shared news, met new neighbors, had a beautiful day in the sun, and sang songs.

We also said a collective prayer (secular/non-denominational expression of intention) to protect those who are maintaining chernobyl, holding them in our hearts, hoping they could be protected and allowed to switch shifts and kept safe. We know almost everyone is very worried, but lets look to the good people, the heros, the helpers, the healers.. and the those working to keep us safe .. to keep our spirits up.

hope everyone is well. see you at the river..

jules for rbn

Sun, March 20, Spring Equinox

Sunday, March 20, 2022
11-12 Riverbank workday,
12-1 gather for fire, community, and small ceremony of hope, details below.


Tomorrow, Sunday, March 20th, Riverbank Neighbors invites you to our first riverbank event of 2022, from 11:00 until 1:00 to observe the Vernal Equinox, the first day of Spring and the official end of Winter. Soon, the spring flowers will come!

At 11, we’ll meet at the east side of the river and Berteau, and from 11 to noon, we’ll have a short workday and do some path maintenance and prep for a planned prescribed burn of the riverbank at the end of the month.

After the workday, at noon, we will gather around a fire and share news and have a small ceremony of hope.

In the past, many members of Riverbank Neighbors have been activists for environmental, social justice, and peace. Many are still doing that work or looking for ways to do so. And so, Sunday, after our workday, at noon, we will have a small campfire to gather and share news and gather for a ceremony, to light candles of hope for protection of all humanity from the violence of war and, for peace, for protection for the precious staff at Chernobyl in their most important duty, for the protection of all refugees, from everyplace in the world where people struggle to protect their children and loved ones in need.

We will light candles in hope of healing and peace in the world and in our own community, Riverbank Neighbors. If anyone would like to join us in song, we will sing together, one healing song, of hope for the children, for a harmonious future where everyone is welcome, where everyone has value, where forgiveness is possible and where there are no enemies.  We hope you will join us.

Thank you to all who attended our Controlled Burn Support Crew Training.
It was very exciting be joined by so many from the Montrose Metra Garden!
We’ll share that video in another email soon.

for RBN, Jules

a drawing of a peace dove by Picasso

Save the Date Wed Feb 23rd and rsvp

Our Annual Burn Training will be virtual this year. Wednesday, Feb 23rd, 6pm. Please attend if you’d like to help be the support crew for the controlled burn of the native gardens at the Riverbank at Berteau and/or Waters Garden.

Many in our community have decades of experience and/or certification or professional experience in controlled burns. This training is aimed specifically at preparing our community to burn our sites, but may be of interest to anyone who manages native gardens or who wants to learn more.  We invite you to join us. We’ll share some instructions along with video clips to show what to expect and how to participate safely in this exciting part of native garden management.

This meeting is hosted by Pete Leki, (Ecology teacher at Waters), Sarah Anderson (Env Ed Program director at the Nature Museum), and Jules Peterson-Green (Riverbank Neighbors and the Green Council of the 47th Ward). We hope that many other neighbors with experience will also join to share their expertise. If you have been burning with us for years, we’ll give you the opportunity to share some advice or stories. Newcomers will enjoy hearing from you and we hope you’ll join us.

Riverbank Neighbors and Waters Garden communities have been stewarding and burning their community native gardens for over 20 years.

learn more…

River Day-sign up is full but seeking experienced RBN to guide tasks

Tomorrow, Saturday, May 8th is the big city-wide River Day,
organized by Friends of the Chicago River, which was founded in 1979 when the river was desperately more polluted and had almost no fish in it anymore.
‘Friends’ is responsible for organizing Chicagoans to fight for the improvements that have brought our river back to life.

If you aren’t a member yet, If you love the river, then you’ll want to become a member of Friends. They send a great newsletter all about the river that shows how much great work is going on to improve the quality of the river.    Our local group, Riverbank Neighbors has been partnering with and supported by Friends of the Chicago River for decades.

On River Day, we usually have 20-30 new people show up at Berteau around 9am.  We need to show them what work needs to be done.  For this, we need some of our experienced neighbors who already know the work to help lead the event. 
Although Riverbank Neighbors hosts many many workdays throughout the year, River Day is a special day for us because on that day, we often recruit new wonderful members who find us through the Friends of the Chicago River website. We also love being one of many many sites for the big city-wide event!  This year, as in most previous years, our site is full.

If you come to Riverbank Neighbor workdays often and know the tasks fairly well (digging up natives that have spread to the path, weeding, or wood chipping) and if you are willing to show newcomers how to do it, please join us tomorrow (even if you didn’t sign up yet) between 9 and 12 in the morning.  (please reply to this email to let us know you can come. Thank you!)

We’ll be joined for a show of support by our Alder* Matt Martin and State Senator Sara Feigenholtz.

In non-covid years, all participants were invited to gather for one big celebration after the event with music, visiting nature educators, and fun games for kids. next year, we hope to celebrate together again. We hope everyone will get vaccinated to help such celebrations possible.  For now, please bring your masks and respect people’s personal space for covid reasons. Thank you so much, we look forward to seeing you tomorrow. Upcoming dates are on our website at the link here.

April 3rd Riverbank Neighbor newsletter.

Riverbank Neighbors Newsletter Saturday Apr 3rd 2021

1- Riverbank Workday schedule for spring!
2- Gratitude to the Burn Support Crew for another successful year!
3- Task list
4- Waters and Riverbank family looking for apartment

1- Riverbank Workday schedule for spring!
The Riverbank Neighbor calendar of events is on the website and google calendar at this link.
We’ve tentatively scheduled some workdays for spring.
please check the calendar for updates and changes due to weather…

2- Gratitude to the Burn Support Crew for another successful year!
Once again, our community has completed a successful burn of the Riverbank at Berteau and of Waters Garden.
Gratitude to all who gave their time to attend the online burn support crew training and who were part of the team for the actual controlled burn.   A Gallery of photos and link to the recording of the burn crew training are on our website here.  This year, Pete Leki shared the torch with three Riverbank Neighbor women who had the training and experience, Sarah Anderson, Lisa Phillips, and Jules Peterson-Green.  Pete also assisted the Montrose Metra Garden for their first controlled burn. What a difference from decades ago when this was all new!

3- Task list
(from Pete)

Dear Friends, The sap is flowing and we have work to do. I ordered wood chips, but there is no-telling when they will arrive. And we are scheduled to be a host site for Chicago River Day in May, but for now…. There is a lot of work to do: We need to clean up  trash and trim shrubs in the garden that runs along the parking area; we need to repair alot of the little fences  (stick and string) the line our pathways; we need to repair and replenish our signage; we need to repair retaining walls that have shifted; we need to repair and replace some of our steps, we need to add a few new sections of split rail fencing, we need to dig up some prairie plants that have jumped into the path and plant them into the entrance garden at Rockwell and Berteau (Thank you Greg and Allison for creating and taking care of that area).
4- Waters and Riverbank family looking for 2-3 bedroom apt.
  If anyone knows of a 2-3 bedroom apartment coming available soon please email Jeremy and Jan Atherton.
They’ve been involved in Riverbank Neighbors and Waters Garden for a few years. Their child is a Waters student.
Jeremy is a neuroscientist at Northwestern and Jan is a talented artist. They have to move out of their apartment on
Pensacola because it is being converted from a 2 flat to a single family home and they are having difficulty staying in the neighborhood.  Perhaps someone could help prevent gentrification from costing us another community member.

2021 Controlled Burn of the Riverbank Prairie at Berteau

Riverbank Neighbors have been safely conducting prescribed annual burns of the native prairie on the riverbank at Berteau for many years. Below are photos from this year’s burn, conducted on Saturday, March 20, 2021. Thanks to neighbor Melissa Schulze for documenting the event.

Additionally, here is a link to the March 18, 2021 recording of the Controlled Burn Support Crew Training for Riverbank Neighbors and Waters Garden. For those who would like to get more training, look for burn crew certification events in January and February next year. We usually conduct our controlled burns around the same time each year.

Sign up for River Day May 8th

Here’s the link to sign up for May 8, Chicago River Day 2021, which is the one really big river clean up and celebration organized by Friends of the Chicago River.

Riverbank Neighbors hosts many workdays throughout the year, but for this one workday, we often have many newcomers. It’s helpful to have some of our experienced and trusted community members who can help show newcomers how it’s all done.

Masks still required, of course.

Canoecopia: Andrea Knepper presents!

Here’s a great invitation to get ready for spring! It’s also a chance to introduce everyone to a fantastic Riverbank Neighbor, Andrea Knepper, of Chicago Adventure Therapy-

Guiding youth through the urban wilderness. Using a wilderness therapy model in an urban setting, Chicago Adventure Therapy offers therapeutic outdoor programs for under-served and marginalized youth.

Andrea Knepper invites us to join her to her presentation at Canoecopia on March 12 to hear all about her 3 month expedition down the Pacific coast. This is perfect for anyone, especially youth. It’s a great story with exquisite photos such as these, below. $15 for the entire virtual event! Tickets:

From Andrea:

Join me at Canoecopia this Friday at 7PM to hear more about my trip. Tickets:

Make sure to catch the other two Chicago Adventure Therapy presentations while you’re at it! I’m really proud of the work that CAT youth and young adults have done with these presentations. ” Using a wilderness therapy model in an urban setting, Chicago Adventure Therapy offers therapeutic outdoor programs for under-served and marginalized youth.

March 12 (Friday), 7:00 pm Central Time Andrea Knepper Dre’s West Coast Adventure – Paddling from Canada to Mexico Live

March 13 (Saturday), 4:00 pm Central time CAT youth and young adults All Boats Float: Welcoming People of Color into Paddling (Pre-recorded)

March 14 (Sunday), 3:00 pmVictoria Koch with CAT Young Adult LeadersChicago Youth Led Programming Pre-recorded

Riverbank Neighbors join the Hunger Strike in Solidarity with our Neighbors and Allies.

To draw attention to the effort to STOP GENERAL IRON, we announce a one-day Hunger Strike in Solidarity with all the Brave Activists Fighting to Stop General Iron.

Chicago Audubon and friends from other conservation organizations including Riverbank Neighbors and The Green Council of the 47th Ward will observe a one-day hunger strike on Monday, February 22 in solidarity with the environmental justice groups working to prevent General Iron from relocating in the Calumet area. The people, wildlife and wetlands of the Calumet area have borne more than their share of pollution, and it’s time for the City of Chicago to find a different way. We are using our platform to put pressure on Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Dr. Allison Arwady to do what is right. DENY the permit.

The one-day solidarity hunger strikers from our neighborhood organizations includes:

  • Matt Rundquist, of the Green Council and Neighbors for Environmental Justice Advisory Board,
  • Pete Leki, Waters School Ecology teacher and Riverbank Neighbors,
  • Lisa Hish, of Riverbank Neighbors and the Green Council -statement- “I have the good fortune to breathe fresh clean air in my neighborhood as should my neighbors to the south. Deny the permit.”
  • Ivan Handler, of the Green Council 47th Ward -statement- “This is how we express that we are hungry for environmental justice.”
  • Michael Sewall of the Green Council,
  • Jules Peterson-Green.. Green Council, Riverbank Neighbors, Waters Ecology,
  • Heather Smith 1st grader Waters School Mom and Adjunct Professor, DePaul University Geography Department,
  • Nick Anderson of the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Solidarity Network and
  • 60 +people listed here: City-Wide page organized by Judy Pollock, Chicago Audubon Society

Solidarity can tip the scales away from injustice.

Background information about the hunger strike and issues

Local neighborhood organizing page for hunger strikers in Riverbank Neighbors and the 47th Ward.

Hunger strikers are posting daily on Twitter.

Twitter #DenyThePermit live stream..

in the news…

Feb 18, 2021 WBEZ Hunger Strike Continues Over General Iron’s Move to Southeast Side. The Southeast Side of Chicago is home to the most industrial parts of the city, bearing the heaviest burden of pollution near homes, schools and parks.

Feb 17, 2021 Block Club Chicago Feds Tell City: Don’t Issue General Iron Permit Until Civil Rights Investigation Is Completed

Feb 14, 2021 The Guardian The Chicago plant that sparked a hunger strike amid environmental racism claims

Feb 11, 2021 Southeast Side activists staging hunger strike in bid to derail metal recycler’s planned facility

Feb 11, 2021 Hunger Strike Against Southeast Side Metal Scrapper Reaches Eighth Day WTTW

Feb 09, 2021 Hunger Strike To Stop East Side Scrapper Grows As More Activists Urge State, City Leaders To ‘Do Right By … Our Community’

Someone died on our stretch of the River this morning.

Written by Andrea of Cullom Ave. December 14, 2020

homeless encampment under the bridge

Someone died on “my” stretch of the River this morning.

I believe it was the guy who had been sleeping in this tent.

This tent was the 2nd to show up under the bridge. It was set up pretty precariously, on an angle on the bank. There was another guy living there longer, in a gray tent set up well, hidden under the bridge. He seemed to have a pretty good system set up. There was one morning his shopping cart up top was full of firewood. The next morning he had a campfire going.

Other mornings I sometimes smelled a fire I couldn’t see. I think those fires were smaller. They smelled like they were built with wood he found, not “proper” firewood.

Yesterday morning, the first morning this orange tent was there, there was a campfire again. For the first time, there were voices coming from that fire. The way there should be around a campfire.

Today, the orange tent was at the water’s edge, on its side like this. I had worried it would slide. I had also worried it would draw attention – it was to the side of the bridge instead of directly under it, and orange. So when I saw the blue lights of cop cars, and then several people walking up from the water, I was sad to see what I knew would be inevitable – cops moving the guys along. They’d become too visible.

I was wrong. A man had died.

The cops didn’t like me talking to the other guy – the guy I think was there for longer and had the systems set up. They definitely wanted me to move along.

Their body language was a little less suspicious when I talked directly to them.

* Did someone go in the water?

* [[ slight nod ]]

* Have they been rescued yet?

* [[ slight shake of the head ]]

* Are they still in the water?

* [[slight shake of the head ]] “He’s deceased.”

I told the other guy I was sorry about his buddy. That I’d seen him in the mornings and I was rooting for him.

The cop clearly wanted me to move on.

I thought about going back with a cup of coffee and a blanket. The other guy was sitting on the ground wearing what looked like a pair of scrubs. Not warm enough for below freezing temperatures – especially if you’re in shock or if you’re damp yourself. I really wanted the cops to have given him a blanket.

I didn’t go back because I figured they would be gone by the time I got there.

Later on my walk I saw a muskrat hanging out on the tree that fell several weeks ago, while a couple seagulls called over head. I was reminded that the world keeps going.

And then I was reminded how easily we say that when we don’t know someone. Even if we’ve seen them every morning. And how impossibly hard it is to say that when it’s someone dear to us instead of a stranger.

And I thought of the nearly 300,000 strangers who have died in this country from COVID. People who are strangers – almost 300,000 deaths that I can feel bad about, and almost immediately wax philosophical about the circle of life or the turning of the seasons.

I expect very few people will show up to mourn the death of the man who died in “my” river this morning.

My point is simply this. There are too many people who have not gotten the deaths they deserved, and whose lives won’t be mourned the way they should. Their deaths aren’t less tragic, their lives not less deserving of mourning, because they’re homeless or because they’re part of a pandemic with numbers too big to get our hearts or our brains around.

A man died on “my” section of the river this morning. May he rest in peace.

Dear neighbors, A caring community responds to suffering.

Andrea wrote this piece, we thank her and are grateful.

Other riverbank neighbors left flowers at the bridge and shared stories of brothers and friends who fell into homelessness. How we tried to help, often for years and decades, painful witness to suffering.

As a community, Riverbank Neighbors have a longtime history of working for social justice and peace as well as environmental issues.

The more that class inequities make some callous, the more we double down and refuse to be separated from the refugees, asylum seekers, homeless, and dis-empowered. They are our brothers, our mothers, our kin, our human family.

Lets lead towards a better world.

You are invited to visit our social justice page, where we have collected information about how to help the plight of the homeless and measures which contribute to prevent homelessness, like the eviction moratorium and mortgage assistance and places to donate.

No! to Racism! Gather at the River today. Black Lives Matter.

No! to Racism! Gather at the River today, Friday June 26th 5pm. Dear Riverbank Neighbors and friends,
As you may have heard, we are organizing our response to the racist flyers, defaced Black Lives Matter signs, and graffiti that appeared in recent days on the riverbank path and neighborhood.
The event will be 5pm today at Berteau and the river.
Alderman Matt Martin will join us.
Rain or shine. Bring placards and/or umbrellas with messages emblazoned.

Riverbank Neighbors has a history of activism around social justice issues. We show up at the protests, we organize, we participate in coalitions. We are more motivated than ever. Many in our neighborhood are activists, devoting much of their time, showing up at court rooms for those wrongly convicted (google Burge torture Homan if unfamiliar), showing up at BLM events, donating to support these causes, and working on these justice issues in other tangible ways. Lets do more. Usually we do our social justice organizing and activism in other organizations, but since this hit our community right in the heart, we are responding from our hearts. Please join us in taking a stand against white supremacy and for community. Alderman Martin’s message is attached below.
This is a socially distanced event with masks.

Facebook event link here.  Please share.

Turtles and…

The heat has been turned up, the daylight hours stretched out, the nights cool but short. This Saturday brings the Summer Solstice, normally a time when Riverbank Neighbors gather together to celebrate our Earth, our community, our work. But things are not normal. How can we share this common worldwide moment? Maybe a quiet early morning walk by the river?
Maybe bring your clarinet or flute, 
your cello or harp,
find a solitary space and play.
Play for the children and the old folk, the lonely and the heart broken,
play for the hope that we build into each day’s work,
for the end of day, the arrival of night,  the promise of a new day.
When we carry the difficulties of this time, hot and heavy, and the hope for gentle rain and cool breeze, consider the snapping turtle that labored her way up the bank on Wednesday,  found a spot into Amy and Paul’s front yard of , lifted her nose to the air, and dug out a bowl in which to lay her leathery eggs. She stopped every few moments to rest. She was working hard.  If turtles could sweat, she would be sweating. Instead she would just stop and rest, her baggy skin covering powerful muscular legs. She finished her work, smelled for the river and pushed through the tall plants, under the fence, down the bank, over the rocks, and, one final pause, and tipped into the water. She surfaced briefly, maybe to say good bye to us? Or to the clutch of eggs that she entrusted to fate (and Amy). Our dinosaur friend, beautiful, powerful, without doubt.

Thanks to all that have labored at a distance to repair the two lower paths, dug out trails, watered plants, set up new fencing, painted and mounted new signage, hauled rocks and soils, built new storm drainage, pulled weeds and trimmed back the too aggressive plants. We have been thanked and graced by the appearance and songs of frogs, turtles, beaver and muskrats, night herons, indigo buntings, orioles, scarlet tanagers. Our need for company and contact, touch, builds, yet we remain cautious and careful to protect each other. Please wear your masks, keep your distance, wash your hands.
We are awaiting delivery of wood chips. Once they arrive we can re-chip the paths and re-open, as one way paths. Chipping can be done at any time, so that we don’t bunch up. Stay atuned!

Dear Riverbank Neighbors,
(msg from Jules) I hope you are well and safe. Two messages below: 1. The weekend on the riverbank 2. National Day of Action; We join the calls of our brothers and sisters across the city and the country for #JusticeforGeorgeFloyd #JusticeforBreonnaTaylor
details below
1. Dear neighbors, this weekend a few riverbank neighbors will be working on the riverbank, following strict covid distancing protocols at various times. We will wear masks and appreciate if all visitors follow the rules and keep us all safe and healthy.   Many people are enjoying the beauty of the river path and treasuring it more than ever, On the other hand, many of our neighbors are really upset about rude, destructive, and dangerous behavior.  We are making more signs, have closed parts of the path, and may do more.  We have neighbors who have serious health issues and we want to protect them. and their ability to go for a walk safely in the beauty of nature.  Please help.  

2. Riverbank Neighbors organizers and members have a long history of organizing and participating in protest for social justice and environmental causes. 

We join the calls of our brothers and sisters across the city and the country for #JusticeforGeorgeFloyd #JusticeforBreonnaTaylor   Today is a National Day of Action Car Caravan:   or this:  Chicagoans To Honk Horns, Make Noise Saturday At 7 P.M. Cacerolazo To Protest Police Killing Of George Floyd But all of this will only make a difference if we commit to life long anti-racist training.  Who’s in?    For those who cannot attend, but want to donate, please do.   The Minnesota Freedom Fund

Walking the Path

Riverbank Neighbors:
Please help us by reading the Riverbank Rules below.  Dare we say that this is mandatory reading?  If you’ve been walking the path all your life, or if you are new, either way, as we work to prevent the spread of COVID-19, none of this is obvious.  Please tell people about the new rules and firmly but gently ask them to follow them.  Nobody should be afraid to walk the path.

If we have more complaints we will have to close the path entirely for the rest of the stay at home order.

In order to prevent the spread of COVID-19:-Only go to the riverpath if you are willing to wait your turn and go slow, yielding, and social distancing more than 6 feet (people on the path would prefer much more). If you have a dog, it must be well behaved and on a regular length leash.

Important Details:
-To prevent spread of the virus, it is vitally important not to enter the path unless you are certain you can social distance.  Do not enter if there are aleady people coming your way, please yield to them.
-To prevent destroying all the work Riverbank Neighbors have done, it is vitally important to stay on the path and not to create a situation where you might feel you need to step off the path because of overcrowding.
-Lastly, Reigning in dogs: Dogs must be on a regular length leash.  Don’t bring your dog on the path at all if your dog will growl and lunge at your neighbors. (that should go without saying, but sadly, it doesn’t). And please don’t get close enough to others that your dog might jump up on them (social distancing, good manners, being aware of others with possible health conditions).  People who walk the path have written us describing reasons they need dog owners to be more thoughtful, sometimes giving reasons, like being unsteady and worrying a dog might knock them down, people recovering from cancer and barely being able to walk but being forced to deal with dogs jumping on them, people who’ve been bit in the past, and people with small children trying to avoid a bad situation.  Sometimes its hard to empathize when your experience has been all good, but we need these rules to protect us because dog bites happen.  Please help us to let people feel and be safe on the path again.

And we also want to ask that you all keep our sisters and brothers at the Englewood Veterans Garden in your thoughts and hearts.  Our friend and fellow garden organizer, Cordia Pugh tells us of multiple community members and relatives who have died of Covid or who are in the hospital. Their community has been hit hard.   Our hearts go out to them.  Cordia Pugh co-led the city-wide community gardening workshops with us.  They are also a Neighborspace garden.  Our friend, Robin Cline from Neighborspace told me this week that many in community gardens across the city have been hit hard by the virus, few gardens are being able to start tending their gardens.  When the stay at home order is safe, and we can safely go visit, we will bring a gift from our gardens to theirs.  If you would like to contribute, please let us know. 

Many thanks to all of you for your thoughtfulness, for writing to us, for your sign making, for the gardening and riverbank work.

A quick note here to acknowledge that many have been out working on the riverbank this week, repairing wall, planting, making fences, making signs- especially of note this week: Felix, Jeremy, Mike M, Inger, Holly S, Elizabeth G-B and family, and, of course, Pete.  – all with masks and proper Covid safety protocol.  Thanks to all.  Be safe and have a beautiful day.   -Jules
(rules co-written with Pete Leki)

April News

RIVERBANK NEIGHBORS I biked by the closed off loop path at Cullom.
I saw two hipsters below, 
one standing on the retaining wall,
one scrabbled up the bank digging up plants.
At first I thought  it was Holly, weeding.
Then realized, No, it was no one I knew. 
I asked the woman what she was doing.
“Foraging leeks!” she replied ingenuously.
“First of all, I said, this path is closed to repair the damaged bank that you are climbing on.
Second, these plantings are protected and were created by the community, and you do not have permission to take them, and
Third, you are harvesting day lilies, not leeks. Smell them. They aren’t onions. Don’t eat them.”

The other day we were looking across the river at the Horner natural Area paths and you could mistake it for a dog park. Although there are clear signs at the entries, including ad hoc, home made, beseeching signs, dogs abound. Many, if not most, not even on leash. These places really need park rangers who wander the paths, patrol them and explain why dogs are a problem with ground nesting birds and other wildlife. Natural areas are so few. They are a refuge for migrating species and reptiles and mammals trying re-establish themselves in the Urban Wild.  Off leash dogs, even “friendly” ones are a threat to children, who have been bitten, grabbed and freaked out by aggressive (playful) dogs.  Please, spread the word. Some people don’t know how tentative these urban natural areas are.

Another other day we watched across at Horner, as a fitness buff decided to streak up the bank, off path, then trudge back down. The streak back up, and repeat, over and over, almost by definition destroying the banks integrity by killing off, trampling, the plants that keep it stable. Pllllease!

Today, we worked on the Cullom Street path (entrance for ONE WAY traffic). We installed a small fence to protect the upper bank, and posted some beautiful new signs created by Elizabeth G.B. and family on Maplewood. See photo attached.  Previous beautiful signs created by Nicole, Salim and Deb of Hutchinson, have been blasted away by wind and rain. We need more signs like these for the other loop, and many signs that say:
  Stay On Path
Stay Off Bank
Don’t Pick flowers or poach plants
Yield to other walkers on the path   Stay on the paths, and keep your social 
distance.   Stay off the banks! Do not climb and destroy rare and sensitive plant communities.   On the upper paths, look before you go, and let oncoming traffic through before you continue.  While we worked, we could hear a dad, across the way, trying to be the best, funnest dad ever, for his, maybe, four year old son. They cut through the brush, making their own paths in the wilderness. At one point, I saw the dad trying furiously to remove a branch from a tree. Finally successful, he used it to stick inside some sort of hole he had found in the bank. Maybe he was fishing for termites. Maybe he was telling his child, “Some kind of animal lives in there, let’s see if we can flush it out!” 
Next good idea came a few minutes later when the dad and child sat on the rocks by the wetland area.
“Which one should we throw next. Oh! That one?”
I called across and asked him to please not throw those rocks in.
“Why?” he asked.
I explained that those rocks were placed there to hold in the bank and that if he threw in 10, and another hundred people threw in ten, there would be no bank left. “OK” he said.

These times have brought many new and inexperienced people into the field. We need to find ways to explain and remind them, if these places are to survive and thrive. 

————————————————– Riverbank Neighbors is a community-led organization. The ancient ecosystem was all but wiped out on our land, but now the river path offers a view of natural beauty very rare.. The riverbank in our urban neighborhood has been tranformed by our work, since 1994. Our community leaders are stewards of the ecosystem, with deep ties to the Environmental organizations in the Chicago area, especially the North Branch Restoration Project and Friends of the Chicago River. We gather seeds of precious, rare plants, spread them in nuturing areas, and keep the weeds away. Workdays include maintaining the paths as education and work centered aroud maintaining this example of our ancient native Chicago ecosystem. Many people have helped to create and maintain this 1/4 mile stretch of the Chicago Riverbank. The children of nearby, Waters Elementary, through the Mighty Acorn program with Ecology teacher, Pete Leki, have visited the riverbank here as part of their river studies for many many years. Countless volunteer groups have assisted in these efforts. Many many people have contributed to the beauty and we thank all of them. We seek kindred spirits, who like to garden, rebuild steps, or gather seeds and learn the nuances of the ecosystem. We invite artists, students, and community of all ages to find a place for themselves in our project. Check the calendar to join our riverdays and other events.
**check back when the shut down is over**
Till then, only our experienced crew will continue, as essential workers, maintaining the riverbank, keeping careful social distance.
Bird report from Sigrid:

Today was really fun. I birded the Horner Park side of the River this morning.  I have never seen this many swamp sparrows at one outing before. They were everywhere.  We have pretty much the same thing on our side.  I had 2 towhees and a brown thrasher at the same time.  S
Here’s the list: 

27 species

Canada Goose  16     6 goslings
Blue-winged Teal  2
Mallard  7
Mourning Dove  1
Ring-billed Gull  1
Herring Gull  2
Belted Kingfisher  1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  5     Female
Northern Flicker  3
Eastern Phoebe  1
Tree Swallow  5
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  5
European Starling  6
Brown Thrasher  1
Hermit Thrush  2
American Robin  14
House Sparrow  2
American Goldfinch  1
Dark-eyed Junco  3
White-throated Sparrow  16
Song Sparrow  5
Swamp Sparrow  15     They’re everywhere
Eastern Towhee  1
Red-winged Blackbird  9
Common Grackle  13
Yellow-rumped Warbler  4
Northern Cardinal  2


Riverbank Neighbors has declared a climate emergency.  As has our Green Council of the 47th Ward and now, today, the City Council of Chicago.  To those who this is a shock, they have some hard realizations ahead, all necessary.  To the rest of us, this is like rain (hope) in a time of drought (despair).  With this resoltion, we hope, much action will result.  As part of this resolution, there is more to communicate, more to listen, more work to do.  But also the day to day regular work of Riverbank Neighbors continues.

So, we invite you to spread the word and join us Managing Small Native Gardens with Controlled Permitted Burns  Thursday, February 27, 2020 at 6 PM – 8 PM
Dear Friends,
Waters School Gardens and Riverbank Neighbors will be holding a workshop:

“Managing Native Gardens in the City: learn how certified crews conduct controlled, permitted burns of small gardens in Chicago.”

Thursday, February 27, 2020
Sulzer Regional Library
6:00 – 8:00

Presentations, Video, and Roundtable
to share information about this invaluable restoration tool.

Details here:

Please join.  We’ll start by reading the Climate Emergency Declaration and a call to action, as the Green Council does to start each meeting.

Hope to see you there.
Future Rbn workdays:
tba RBN