EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD: Much to be thankful for in Chicago Southland

2013-12-01T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD: Much to be thankful for in Chicago SouthlandBy Jim Garrett nwitimes.com
December 01, 2013 12:00 am  • 

With Thanksgiving recently passed and the holidays quickly approaching, it’s time to reflect on the many things we are thankful for here in the Chicago Southland. I am thankful for ...

  • The hard work of the National Park Service, the Forest Preserve District of Cook County and Openlands in the formation of a Water Trail Plan for the Calumet area. This plan will look to improve the water quality, expand access to the waterways and promote the water trails for recreational purposes.
  • The recent completion and dedication of the Pennsy Greenway after years of hard work by Lansing Village President Norm Abbott and Lan-Oak Park District Director of Parks and Recreation John Wilson. Over the past decade, they have worked tirelessly to complete this trail and its link to Indiana.
  • The Illinois horseman and race tracks coming together on an agreement about Advanced Deposit Wagering that will keep race tracks like Balmoral Park in Crete operating past next January. From the history of the facility and the excitement of the races, I encourage everyone to visit this very unique place in the Chicago Southland.
  • The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning voting in favor of adding the Illiana Expressway to its Go To 2040 plan so the Illinois Department of Transportation can start taking the next steps forward. The economic development potential for the hospitality industry along the new expressway is substantial, and we are excited to see this plan evolve.
  • The $3.4 million in grants, donations and other funding that continues to push the Cal-Sag Trail from a dream to reality. This project is getting ready to break ground on the western half next spring, and the Friends of the Cal-Sag Trail hope to ride on that portion by next summer.
  • The interchange at Interstates 57 and 294 that is looking closer to completion every time I drive by. After many years of being one of two locations in the country where two interstates meet without connecting, this $700-plus million project will link them in 2014, which will open new economic development opportunities in the region.
  • The hard-working volunteers who put on the 500-plus festivals and events in the Chicago Southland. Volunteers like JoEllyn Kelley of J.J. Kelley’s in Lansing and the all the wonderful folks at the Lansing Association for Community Events who helped to put on a successful Lansing Autumn Fest this year.

Finally, I am thankful for the continued support of Deputy Director of Tourism Jen Hoelzle, the Illinois Office of Tourism and the state of Illinois. I’m thankful the Office of Tourism has a great sense of humor with their recent Mini Abe campaign. I’m also thankful Illinois tourism has a leader like Jen to keep the state on the leading edge of destination marketing.

I am thankful for so many more things, like the valued support of our municipalities and others, but for the sake of brevity, have a great holiday and we’ll see you in 2014.

Jim Garrett is president and CEO of the Chicago Southland Convention & Visitors Bureau. The opinions are the writer's.

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