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Chicago River Boathouse Advisory Committee

Because of a lack of transparency and communication on the part of the Chicago Park District regarding Chicago River boathouse development, the Rowing Group has decided to take the lead on forming a Chicago River Boathouse Advisory Committee. The purpose of the committee is to provide a resource for all rowers and paddlers in the Chicago area to give their input on the development of the Chicago River boathouses. We would like to help facilitate an easy method for members of the alternative athletic community to work together to ensure their voices are heard regarding major developments on the Chicago River and that the boathouse development is implemented in the best interests of the entire community. We are excited about this rapid development on the Chicago River and want to do our part to help make rowing and paddling the dominant positive influence on the Chicago River.

As of August 15, 2012, the Chicago Park District has yet to agree to meet with all of the members of the rowing and paddling communities at one time and in one place. The objective of a meeting would be to give the Chicago Park District the opportunity to hear critical and pertinent feedback about the development of the Chicago River Boathouses at one time and in one location. The Chicago River Boathouse Advisory Committee has asked the Chicago Park District to hold public forums on boathouse development repeatedly since December 2011, both in person at "People in the Parks" sessions at monthly CPD board meetings and in personal one-on-one meetings at CPD headquarters on Fairbanks. We have also communicated this via email on a number of occasions as well.

Agreeing to meet with the members of the rowing and paddling communities is a sound and prudent way to ensure complete transparency in the Chicago River boathouse development project. So far no public meetings of this nature have been held. The only public meetings have been small personal meetings that do not include suitable, definitive information on boathouse development. We fear the Chicago Park District may be doing this to the detriment of the rowing and paddling communities as a whole.

The Chicago River Boathouse Advisory Committee is working to pressure the Chicago Park District to be fully transparent in the development of these boathouses. We want the boathouses to be the absolute best they can be and we will continue to push for 100% transparency in all aspects of this project.

Locations of planned boathouses:

  • River Park Boat House, 5100 N. Francisco—the site of the future boat house is at Argyle and the river.
  • Clark Park Boat House, 3400 N. Rockwell—the site of the future boat house is at Roscoe and Rockwell, east of the river.
  • Ping Tom Memorial Park Boat House, 300 W. 19th Street—the site of the future boat house is north of 18th street, through the under-bridge connection, west of the St. Charles line railroad tracks.
  • 28th & Eleanor Boat House, Bubbly Creek—the site of the future boat house is between Loomis and Fuller Streets on Eleanor, across the river from Ashland Avenue.

If you would like to be a part of any future boathouse advisory discussions, please feel free to contact us at

Recent Developments

June 2012
The Chicago Park District broke ground on the Clark Park rowing boathouse location.

May 9, 2012
The Rowing Group compiled a summary of potential locations for a rowing boathouse on the North Branch of the Chicago River. This was done at the request of the Clark Park Advisory Council. The report can be viewed here.

May 2, 2012
The Rowing Group has been asked by the Clark Park Advisory Council to compile a list of suitable alternative locations to the proposed Clark Park rowing boathouse location. We are compiling this report now and will make it available to the CPAC and the public as soon as it is complete. If you have suggestions or would like to provide input on this report, email the Rowing Group at

April 25, 2012
Rowing Group and Chicago River Boathouse Advisory Committee member Mark Carroll mentioned in Clark Park ‘Hijacked by Outside Interests’ in Plans for New Boat House, published in the Roscoe View Journal's article on Chicago River boathouse progress. Link to Roscoe View Journal article by Patty Wetli.

April 9, 2012
The Rowing Group has been in contact with members of the Clark Park Advisory Council regarding the development of the Chicago Park District rowing facility slated to be built at Clark Park in 2012-2013 . The CPAC communicated their displeasure with the development of the boathouse at that specific location, mainly due to a lack of responsiveness to meet their previously expressed needs (playground, public bathrooms, etc.) as well as the perceived lack of substantiative communication coming from the Chicago Park District.

One example of this that was shared with the Chicago River Boathouse Advisory Committee was a question that went unanswered by the CPD representative when they came to present the plans for the Clark Park boathouse. One CPAC member asked, "why do the boats have to be so long?" The CPD representative, who is charged with competently presenting the CPD plans and answering questions about the new rowing boathouses, did not have an answer for them. This unfortunately reenforces the Chicago River Boathouse Advisory Committee's fears; that the Chicago Park District is making significant decisions about sports that they are largely unfamiliar with, as clearly shown by their past actions. It is clear that the members of CPD charged with creating these boathouses do not have a good basis of knowledge on rowing to work with in order to make well thought out decisions.

The Rowing Group and the Chicago River Boathouse Advisory Committee once again ask the Chicago Park District to agree to meet all interested members of the rowing community to make sure all questions and concerns are properly addressed. Not knowing how to answer a simple question about the sport of rowing is a terrible sign of the significant need for more involvement by rowing community members in the development of the Chicago River Boathouses.

Members of the Chicago River Boathouse Advisory Committee will be attending the Clark Park Advisory Council monthly meeting on April 17th at 7pm at Revere Park, 2509 West Irving Park Road in Chicago. Contact if you would like to be a part of the Chicago River Boathouse Advisory Committee. The proper use of Chicago Park District funding and the proper shared use of our river are too important to mess this up. CPD needs to do more to work with community members.

February 7, 2012
The Rowing Group emailed representatives from the Chicago Park District again requesting for public involvement in the development of the Chicago River Boathouses. Below is the letter that was sent.

Hey guys,

I just wanted to write to check in to see how things are progressing with the boathouses? I have not heard anything since the last email I sent connecting CPD with an area rowing program, the Chicago Rowing Union. Can you update me on the progress? I am planning on attending the next People in the Parks session tomorrow (2/8/12) to speak again about boathouse development as well as other alternative sports like sailing, kayaking and cycling.

I understand there is another group that is working on the programming side of the boathouses, where you primarily work on the facilities development. Would you know who the people are who are charged with the programming aspects of the boathouses? I am in full communication with virtually every rowing program in Chicago, including working and meeting with the coaches at the Lincoln Park Juniors and the Chicago Training Center on a frequent basis. We all agree there needs to be an open dialog on the development of the Chicago River boathouses, both before opening and after, and I would again like to suggest an open forum, like the Chicago River Boathouse Advisory Committee, to include the entire rowing and paddling community of Chicago, similar to the development of the Bloomingdale Trail.

I know the development of the boathouses is on an accelerated timetable, which is all the more reason to invite all members of the community to participate in planning, not just a few select programs, which seems to be the case presently. The proper development of the Chicago rowing community is my primary concern. I do this because I have a unique perspective having working in the rowing industry for over a decade. I've personally seen the the extreme benefits that can come from having a boathouse in a community, but I have also seen the missteps that have hindered the development of rowing and paddling. I would like to help the CPD avoid these possible issues with the help of my peers in the rowing and paddling communities.

I look forward to hearing about the developments of the boathouses to date so I can share this information with other members of the community of rowing and paddling. Please feel free to contact me at anytime.


Mark A. Carroll


January 20, 2012
The Rowing Group attended the Millennium Reserve Advisory Council meeting on Friday January 20th. Mark Carroll is a member of the Council and presented the Lake Calumet Business Community Revival/ Lake Calumet 2000m Rowing and Paddling Race Course Concept. The Rowing Group supports any development of alternative sports in Chicago. Below is what was presented.

The area surrounding Lake Calumet has long been home to commercial and industrial business for over a century.  Over the past few decades the area around the lake has become less utilized by industry and a large portion of the area has seemingly been sitting idle for some time.

I would like to propose the area around Lake Calumet be a center for the composite industry for Chicago.  Composites are untouched in Chicago and there is virtually no composite industry in Chicago, despite the high level of movement into that business sector.  I feel sports like rowing and paddling can also aid in this development through the establishment of a permanent international level rowing and paddling course at Lake Calumet.

Pullman recognized Lake Calumet as an excellent venue for rowing and paddling sports.  When he developed his industrial community, building the best locomotive luxury cars in the world, he knew his employees wanted to have a local destination for the popular organized sports of the time.  These included rowing and paddling primarily, as they were the most popular competitive sports for people to both view and participate. 

The layout of the area is still ideal for rowing and paddling.  However now we have the perspective of history.  We can see the extreme value of an area to develop sport.  At the same time we can utilize sport as a tool to bring about economic change to a community.  Rowing and paddling both utilize composite materials in the construction of their boats.  Composite materials are also the materials used in space craft, jet fighter planes, and rotor wings for wind turbine power generation, green technologies, and most prominently, composite materials are almost exclusively used in the construction of Boeing’s newest flagship airship, the 787.

Composite materials are the replacement for steel in this new century.  Composites are lighter, stronger, and easier to work with than steel.  Composites are unknowingly used in things like the frames of smart phones, the blades of wind turbines, and in a large amount of new green technologies. 
We are at the start of what will be the time of composites, much like steel was the material of choice at the beginning of the industrial revolution.  We are at the precipice of the composites revolution.  Chicago does not have even a small foot-hold in this industry, and we are poised to be left behind in this revolution. 

President Obama has talked about the US becoming less dependent on foreign sources of oil.  At the same time we should help make ourselves less dependent on other items in our economy, in particular, the composite industry market, which is extremely developed in countries like China.  Preparing Chicago for future “what if” scenarios with cheaper imports becoming expensive would be in the best interest of our country and Chicago.  (e.g., political upheaval, middle-class revolution similar to the Jasmine Revolution or Arab Spring in China)

Description of Rowing and Paddling Venue:
The Rowing Group is working to bring a world-class rowing and paddling race course to Chicago, which would include an Olympic level 2000 meter competitive venue as well as a high-performance training center. By collaborating with economic development programs and public sector projects like the Millennium Reserve, the Rowing Group will help to quickly initiate substantial, positive changes to Lake Calumet and to provide a venue for alternative sports like rowing and paddling.

Lake Calumet, in association with the Millennium Initiative Project, has the potential to be a world-class competitive venue for international level rowing and paddling competitions.  Chicago currently does not have a straight 2000m water race course, something that is required in order for Chicago to host regional and international level contests like World Championships, Pan Am Games, and the Olympics.

Lake Calumet is an excellent piece of water that has amazing potential to become a world-class venue for rowing and paddling.  Its shallow depth at certain areas restricts larger motor boats and shipping tankers from accessing the northern section of the lake.  At the same time, these conditions are ideal for rowing and paddling competitions and would help Chicago establish itself as a true center of alternative sports like rowing and paddling. 
Lake Calumet is also situated perfectly in Chicago, located directly next to the highway system, which benefits teams who would travel to Chicago for competitions.  The lake is also located on the Lake Michigan side of the O’Brief Locks, keeping access to the lake simple without the delay of waiting for access to the locks, as well as entirely eliminating the vulnerability to height adjustments of the Chicago River, something that has become an issue for some local programs based on the river.  In addition, the lake’s "untouched" condition, pertaining to past public access options offered previously, makes this lake a “blank canvas’, a perfect candidate for Chicago’s own world-class venue for rowing and paddling. 

During the 2016 Olympic bid for Chicago, a rowing and paddling course was proposed for the Lakefront at the Du Sable Harbor area which runs between Navy Pier and the Shedd Aquarium.  This former proposed venue, while a unique location for competition, did not have the same positive attributes that Lake Calumet has currently at its disposal.  This includes the ability to establish a permanent home for community programs in rowing and paddling, something that would have been difficult with the continued desire to use Du Sable Harbor as a Chicago Park District sailing marina.
It is understood that Lake Calumet will need to undergo some kind of environmental remediation and adjustment to its shoreline before it is opened to the public, mainly due to past industrial endeavors that took place there.  Because of this need, requesting to modifying the layout of the lake is small ways to develop the 2000m race course should prove to be an acceptable condition of the development of the lake.

Lake Calumet will also be an integral part of Chicago’s Master Plan for alternative sports like rowing and paddling.  Coupled with four new Chicago River boathouses planned for construction, as well as other already existing rowing and paddling venues, Chicago will have an exceptionally superior sporting infrastructure that will be an asset to the city.


  • 2200 meter total length
  • 800 meter total width
  • Uniform depth throughout
  • Ability to temporarily separate Lake Calumet from surrounding river system during competition, eliminating potential water flow, which could affect competition.
  • Albano Race Course – A removable, temporarily fully buoyed race course system with 8 lanes.

Others areas of interest for funding:
Lake Calumet Industrial TIF
Designation: 2000    Expiration: 2024

Chicago largest TIF district, the 11,945-acre Lake Calumet TIF was designated to restore business activity on expansive parcels of vacant and underutilized land in the South Deering, Hegewisch and East Side communities. The area was home to numerous large industrial employers for much of the last century before the decline of steel-related industries and other economic trends beginning in the 1970s forced many major employers to downscale and ultimately cease operations. The TIF was designated to implement comprehensive planning and land use objectives that promote the construction of new industrial and commercial uses that provide full-time employment opportunities for area residents. Additional goals include an improved system of roadways, waterways, utilities and other infrastructure that serves existing businesses and future development projects. Funds from the district are also targeted to foster the protection and expansion of the area's wildlife habitats.


January 19, 2012
Mark Carroll from the Rowing Group submitted a question to Mayor Rahm Emanuel for his #AskChicago Facebook Town Hall Meeting slated to take place on January 23, 2012.

Hi Mr. Mayor,

I want to thank you for advancing and advocating for public access to the Chicago River through the four new boathouses slated to be built and operated by the Chicago Park District.  I personally know the extremely positive effect that alternative sports like rowing and paddling can have on youth.  However, sports like rowing and paddling, and additionally sailing and cycling, are alternative sports that are very uncommon in a lot of the students who attend Chicago Public Schools.  This is despite the fact that these four sports are some of the oldest in Chicago, dating far back into the 1800s.

Sports like rowing, paddling, sailing and cycling are typically linked to more affluent regions or institutions, which is partly because of funding and interest.  Chicago has the funding now committed with the four new boathouses, the Chicago Velo Campus development on Burley, along with a strong and supportive sailing community.  All we need is the interest.

My question is what will you do to help to promote alternative sports like rowing, paddling, sailing and cycling among Chicago Public School students?

Benefits of competitive alternative sports

  • Alternative Sports like rowing, sailing, cycling and paddling exposes youth to a new perspective on life, responsibilities, organization, and motivation. 
  •  Alternative Sports provide an opportunity for students to compete on a national level, exposing the athlete's talents to recruitment for college athletics.
  • Alternative Sports provide athletic outlets for students who do not find success in traditional sports like basketball, football, soccer and baseball. 
  • These sports provide students with an opportunity to succeed, something that is extremely beneficial for students who are less athletic than their peers. Rowing, sailing, cycling and paddling are all adaptive sports, providing equal access to Chicagoans with disabilities, as well as utilizing the same facilities as athletes with full mobility.
  • Title IX provides unique opportunities for female student athletes in college, with possible full athletic scholarships available in all of these sports.
  • These sports provide an opportunity for community outreach, with proven successes demonstrated in the Chicago Training Center, an at-risk rowing program trail-blazed by members of Chicago's rowing community; by Recovery on Water, who provides access to rowing for breast cancer survivors; and the Chicago Rowing Union, who created an all-inclusive rowing program for Chicago’s LGBT Community.
  • Sports like rowing, sailing, cycling and paddling provide a healthy recreational activity for literally every segment of society and for virtually all ages.
  • These sports are safe, healthy, and provide access to the outdoors for both recreationally and competitively.
  • These sports offer new and unique summer camp options for the youth of Chicago.
  • People learn by example.  Student athletes can help to introduce their family members to alternative sports like rowing, paddling, sailing, cycling.
  • These sports provide an opportunity for youth to participate in the same activity as their parents, including the ability to participate in the same competitions and at the same time.

I invite you to contact me if you would like to hear more about how Alternative Sports can benefit Chicago’s youth.  I am Chicago's top rowing advocate, and I feel strongly about alternative sports like paddling, sailing and cycling.  My sole intention is to help replicate the extreme successes I and people like me have had because we were exposed to alternative sports like rowing, paddling, sailing and cycling.  I know the extreme benefits these sports can provide and how they can help to develop Chicago Public School students into well-rounded adults. 

Thanks for your time and the opportunity to offer a question for your Facebook forum. 


Mark Carroll


December 16, 2011
Mark Carroll from the Rowing Group met with members of the Chicago Park District charged with developing the planned Chicago River boathouses. These are questions that were submitted to the CPD on behalf of the Chicago River Boathouse Advisory Committee. (link to .PDF version)

Chicago River Boathouses Advisory Committee questions:

  • How were the locations of the four boathouses determined?  Who was consulted in the rowing and paddling communities?
  • Chicago Park District staff may be largely unfamiliar with sports like rowing and paddling.  What is CPD doing to make the individuals involved in the boathouse planning more familiar with the sports?
      • Need to address common issues like annual winter storage, multi-purpose boat bays for seasonal uses, repair bays to keep maintenance costs down, efficient uses of vertical space, top quality storage components for long-term longevity of racks, efficient design to maximize winter storage, and other common omissions that a large number of boathouses contain. 
      • Each common issue listed above has challenged many newly forming boathouses around the US and all have been addressed in various ways, some successful, some flawed.
  • Where is the CPD getting their information regarding needed dimensions or the properly estimated planed use of boathouse space?
      • Space requirements on day one; space requirements for future development of sports.
      • There should be a qualification for sources of information that the CPD is using before permanent plans are made.  Data from allied industries do not apply well to rowing.
      • CPD data might have flaws or do not take into account all aspects of an industry.
        (Critical example, 31st St. Harbor / U Michigan 2005-07 study)

  • Does CPD prioritize certain boathouses for rowing over paddling?  Paddling over rowing?
      • Which boathouses get what priority?
      • How were those decisions made?
      • Significantly important need to consider river width, number of already existing rowing and paddling programs, and other details, when factoring in the number of boats that can safely operate out of each Chicago River Boathouse.

  • When sport-prioritized rowing or paddling boathouses are built, will there be public access to rowing or paddling boats or the ability to store private rowing shells indoors?
      • How will you determine cost for public and private boats?
      • Who will run this program?
      • Need for planning in order for boathouses to return profit on investment for CPD.  Rowing can be incredibly profitable, if properly executed, taking into consideration all previous experiences of other US cities and clubs. 
  • Will CPD allow Chicago area teams to contract space for a finite period of time? Will the CPD lease out boathouse space to area programs on a long-term basis, creating a permanent home for the program?
      • How can teams get involved in this process?
      • Is there an application process or a priority already existing between CPD and any other rowing program on the river?
      • Has equal opportunity been given to every rowing program to participate in the discussion and development process of the Chicago River Boathouses?
      • What efforts has the CPD made to reach out to the rowing and paddling communities?
      • Will newer programs have an equal opportunity to access the planned boathouse space?
      • Early inclusion of all community rowing and paddling programs greatly reduces the chance for disagreement later in the development phase.
      • Local Chicago rowing history, especially relatively recent history, has shown the paramount need to work cooperatively in developing rowing and paddling boathouses or efforts to force one-sided growth on the Chicago River. 
        (Failed Chicago River Rowing and Paddling International Regatta, 2005 / Chicago Rowing Center, Chicago River and Blue Island Issues)
      • The Chicago rowing community is already unified with absolutely no issues between teams in town, which was certainly not the case over the years.
      • We are in fertile ground for cooperative development of the Chicago River.

  • Who will determine the safety standards for any rowing or paddling group on the river? 
      • Need for coaching safety launch ratio to boats on water standard for all rowing shells on river.  This is imperative and should not be marginalized while planning.
      • Need for wakeless zone enforced to protect small boaters from recreational motorboats and personal water craft that could potentially cause major injury or death in the case of on-water collision.  Public campaign for safely and awareness of small boats on river.
      • Need to address barge traffic safety and friendly communication standards between rowing teams and barge operators, reducing the risk of incident.
      • Community effort to keep friendly relations with commercial and industrial neighbors is crucial to cooperative use of the Chicago River. 
      • Establishment of coach/instructor mandatory river safety certification run independently from the CPD, in order for anyone to work, coach, or instruct on the Chicago River in a CPD boathouse.  Self-regulated standards should be kept by each independent program with community consequences for unsafe programs. This should also be stressed for non-CPD rowing venues on the Chicago River.
      • Effort to create wakeless motorboat zone to increase efficiency and cut down on residual wake from standard coaches launches.  Wakeless motorboats reduce the potential for river shore erosion from high wake since they leave no substantive wake in their path. 
      • Incentive system to be safe and operate wakeless motorboats on the Chicago River.  Standard coaches launch leave substantial wake behind them during high speed usage.  Wakeless launches are safer and more fuel efficient for operating expenses, all while leaving little or no wake behind. (standards on Charles River in Boston and Schuylkill in Philadelphia)
  • What is the Adaptive Initiative for the four Chicago River Boathouses?
      • Each location should have a space for a dedicated adaptive team to operate, including dedicated space for adaptive rowing shells and paddle boats.
      • There should be an effort to connect local hospitals and rehabilitation programs in close proximity to boathouses.

  • What will the process be to identify a boat company to bid to sell the equipment to outfit the four Chicago River Boathouses?
      • What are the priorities of the public equipment?
      • How will the rowing and paddling boats be properly maintained?  Who will be in charge of upkeep? How will those costs be addressed?

  • Does Chicago have a long range plan for rowing and paddling in Chicago?  Is there an ultimate goal?
      • Olympics, World Championships, Pan Am Games, NCAA woman’s national championships, IRA men’s national championships. FISA course at Lake Calumet, Millennium Reserve Initiative.
      • Lincoln Park Boat Club and the LP lagoon should be asked to join the Chicago rowing community standards that apply to programs looking for access to Chicago Park District River Boathouses.
      • Dedicated effort to introduce alternative athletics like rowing and paddling to Wards in Chicago that are not typically exposed to these sports.  How will the CPD do that?  Working with Alderman and the Chicago Public Schools.
      • Creating Chicago rowing and paddling master plan to address all of these issues.

  • How will the CPD promote the history of rowing in Chicago?
      • Mid-1980s removal of all historical Chicago rowing and paddling trophies from the Lincoln Park Boat Club boathouse.
      • Imperative need to locate these trophies and artifacts from Chicago’s rowing history.
      • Submittal of FOI to help determine the whereabouts of the trophies.
      • Chicago has a significantly important history of rowing and paddling that should be preserved for the sake of history.

We would like to make sure this money is invested properly and that the boathouses are designed to help develop the rowing and paddling communities of Chicago.  We’re doing this because we do not want to see oversights that could have been addressed properly if given the opportunity.  Rowing and the Chicago River are significantly important to us, and we will effort to defend the best interests of the Chicago rowing community at all times. Submitted December 16, 2011 by Mark Carroll.

December 14, 2011
A request to form a committee to discuss the four Chicago Park District river boathouses planned for completion by 2013 was submitted to the Chicago Park District's Board of Commissioners on December 14, 2011. The request was submitted in person at the Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners meeting during their "People in the Parks" section of the meeting. The meeting took place at 541 N Fairbanks CT, 8th Floor, Chicago, IL 60610.

This was submitted verbally and in letter form. (link to .PDF version)

To the Board of Commissioners of the Chicago Park District:

I would like to call for the formation of a committee to discuss the specific needs of the alternative athletic community, as well as to be informed of the plans so-far, regarding the four Chicago River Boathouses slated for construction in the near future.  The rowing and paddling communities of Chicago would like their input to be considered regarding the design and execution of the public boathouses, before they are built.  Their combined knowledge of the rowing and paddling communities are invaluable to the proper development of a well-planned boathouse, and should be utilized when making decisions regarding the future of public boathouses on the Chicago River.

The announced $16,000,000 investment in four Chicago River Boathouses is a significant amount of money to be spent on alternative sports like rowing and paddling.  One could surmise that the large majority of people charged with developing the boathouses at the Park District may be largely unfamiliar with sports like rowing and paddling.  Utilizing the input of members of the Chicago rowing and paddling communities will help to better ensure long-term success for the boathouses.  We would like to make sure this money is invested properly and that the boathouses are designed to help develop the rowing and paddling communities of Chicago.

I have worked in the rowing industry for nearly a decade and I know I am the best qualified person in Chicago to speak on behalf of the Chicago Rowing Community.  I feel my public comments are pertinent to the boathouse development process that is likely underway at the Chicago Park District.

Thank you for your time.


Mark Carroll


Rowing Group - 2014