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Local Nonprofit Honored with Prestigious Award for Conservation Efforts

Wild Mile View.

Wild Mile View. Photo credit Dave Burk @SOM.

The Field Museum recently honored Urban Rivers with the Parker/Gentry Award for groundbreaking conservation of Chicago’s waterways.

“The city of Chicago has made a concerted effort to support restoration efforts in the Chicago River,” says Dr. Lesley de Souza, chair of the Award Selection Committee at the Field Museum and an ichthyologist. “It’s a real honor to support that mission by recognizing one of the city’s most inspiring and effective local conservation groups.”

Urban Rivers is a leader in transforming urban waterways into wildlife sanctuaries, not only as an environmental mission, but also an important social one. Founded in 2014, the nonprofit organization is restoring urban river bank habitats by building floating gardens and publicly accessible parks directly in Chicago waterways. The gardens are filled with Illinois wetland plants that provide high-quality habitat for native wildlife and offer unique greenspace for residents that promote education, recreation and connection in the surrounding communities.

Executive Director of Urban Rivers, Nick Wesley, says, “It’s a privilege to be recognized for this award. The success of our initiative is a testament to the collective commitment and tireless efforts of researchers, activists, urban planners and fellow nonprofits who rallied around our vision.”

Urban Rivers’ projects include the installation of the first 166-footlong floating garden; Wild Mile, the world’s first floating eco-park with public boardwalk and a kayak launch dock in the heart of Chicago; Bubbly Creek Islands, an archipelago of floating gardens working to improve one of Chicago’s most infamous waterways; and River Park Islands, which at the time of press was slated to open in May.

Established in 1996 and made possible by an anonymous donor, the Parker/Gentry Award is named after conservationists Ted Parker and Al Gentry, who were killed in a 1993 airplane crash while pursuing conservation work in South America. Past awardees represent remarkable achievements in more than a dozen countries and across diverse ecosystems, from the rainforests of South America, Africa and India to valuable freshwater resources like the Great Lakes in North America, to coastal regions worldwide.

For more information about Urban Rivers, visit