Editorial: Enjoy the Riverwalk. But don’t go in the water.

Read the full editorial in the Chicago Tribune.

If you haven’t visited the new Chicago Riverwalk yet, go.

It’s lovely. And September — with its deep blue skies and lingering warm summer days — is a lovely time to take it in. Stroll after work along the winding path that spans from LaSalle Street to Lake Shore Drive and notice how much quieter the city is from river level. Sneak out for a long lunch at one of the seasonal restaurants or nestle into one of the riverside benches with a brown-bag lunch and count the boats as they float by.

An estimated 30 companies now rent out all likes of pleasure craft along the Chicago River, from kayaks and small pontoon boats to larger power boats. Suddenly, at least to those of us who’ve lived here more than a few years, the banks of the Chicago River have been transformed, as Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin put it, “from a hard-edged industrial waterfront to a welcoming post-industrial amenity.”

Or as Mayor Rahm Emanuel — who secured nearly $99 million in federal loans to pay for the transformation — likes to call it, “the next great recreational frontier in Chicago.”

The water is cleaner than it used to be, and tends to be cleanest downtown. But we were reminded recently just how “ewwwww, gross” the water can be when we read Tribune reporter Michael Hawthorne’s description of the state of the Chicago River. The water, he found, is “teeming with pathogens” including fecal bacteria and poses “stomach-churning health risks to people who come in contact with the murky flow.”

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