Bob Uphues/Editor Ed Wagemann, a Cook County Forest Preserve District employee, paddles the Des Plaines River after shoving off from the Schuth’s Grove canoe launch for the very first time during the Oct. 27 ribbon-cutting event.

Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle and about a half dozen other county and state officials cut the ribbon on a new boat launch at Schuth’s Grove on the northwest corner of Cermak Road and Desplaines Avenue on Oct. 27, providing local canoe and kayak enthusiasts yet another access point to the Des Plaines River.

It’s the ninth such canoe/kayak launch in Cook County Forest Preserve land along the Des Plaines River and fills a five-mile gap between the Maywood Grove launch at Lake Street and the Plank Road Meadow launch at Ogden Avenue in Lyons.

The boat launch is reached via a curving asphalt path that slopes gently down to the riverbank, and there’s a stable, paved surface all the way to river’s edge, making it accessible. 

“This makes it easier for everyone to get in or out of the water,” Preckwinkle said during remarks just prior to the ribbon cutting. “And for visitors with disabilities, these features might be the difference between being out in a kayak or staying at home.”

There’s also a canoe/kayak gear staging area to accommodate boats and equipment necessary to host group paddling events.

Arnold Randall, general superintendent of the Cook County Forest Preserve District, said their Conservation and Experiential Programming Department would use the Schuth’s Grove location as a launch point for paddling events and that the Greater Maywood Paddling program would use Schuth’s Grove for training initiatives.

“This award-winning program provides leaders of organized groups training on kayaking, use and care of kayak gear and how to lead a kayak trip,” Randall said. “Once certified, trained leaders can use our free kayak gear library, which has all the supplies needed for an organized group to go on a paddling trip.”

Under construction for much of the year, the roughly $854,000 project received $203,000 from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago and state motor fuel tax revenue to help fund a new permeable paver parking lot.

Kari Steele, president of the MWRD Board of Commissioners, said the parking lot has the capacity to divert 110,000 gallons of storm water away from the river, forest preserve meadows and local sewer systems.

“Our partners at the Forest Preserves embraced the environmental benefits of permeable pavement and how it can protect our water environment and mitigate flooding,” Steele said. “Without [the permeable paver parking lot], that’s more than 110,000 gallons of water invading our forest preserve, filling our riverbanks or flooding our communities.”

In addition, the boat launch was funded in part using an $80,000 state grant through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Boat Access Area Development Program.

“We all learned a lot by living through the pandemic, one of which is that nature is a tonic for all of us,” said John Rogner, deputy director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. “Many people had to relearn, and some people learned for the first time, how privileged we are to live this region, to have so much wild, open space that we refer to as Chicago Wilderness.

“A launch like this removes one of the principal barriers, and that’s access to these waters for new paddlers and it launches them on a sport that will serve them for a lifetime.”

The canoe launch is open every day of the year. It’s considered part of the Miller Meadow Preserve, which covers 300-acres of unincorporated Proviso Township roughly between the Des Plaines River and First Avenue from Cermak Road to Roosevelt Road. Schuth’s Grove is the only area of the preserve west of the river.