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: https://www.rutabaga.com/canoecopia/vccTickets?previewmode=

From Andrea:

Join me at Canoecopia this Friday at 7PM to hear more about my trip. Tickets: https://www.rutabaga.com/canoecopia/vccTickets?previewmode=

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

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 https://naarpr.org/ Car Caravan:  https://www.facebook.com/events/582696639054989/   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 https://minnesotafreedomfund.org


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)