‘Portage Walking Museum’ considered for Irving Park Road


The Portage Park Neighborhood Association will hold a community meting on Monday, Nov. 21, on a proposal to create an 8-mile walking museum along West Irving Park Road between the Chicago and Des Plaines rivers.

Irving Park is believed to be situated along a trail which Native Americans once used to portage, or carry, their canoes between the two rivers. The National Park Service and Metropolitan Planning Council are assisting with the creation of a master plan for the proposed “Portage Walking Museum.”

Association president Patty Conroy said that the idea for the museum stems in part from a desire from the community to honor the Ralph Freese, the longtime Chicagoland Canoe Base owner who died in 2012. There is a proposal to replace the former canoe shop with a three-story, 15-unit apartment building.

The idea for the museum was mentioned at a city-sponsored, brainstorming workshop for community groups, and a planning council representative then approached the association about the project, Conroy said.

Sculptures, murals, historical markers, nature exhibits and information kiosks are among the items which could be installed as part of the project, Conroy said. The walking museum would cut through a half-dozen city neighborhoods, she said.

In addition, existing structures near Irving Park Road may become part of the museum, Conroy said. Those could include a 10-foot aluminum sculpture near Cicero Avenue and Irving Park that pays homage to Native Americans and the canoe-shaped play equipment at Portage Park, 4100 N. Long Ave., she said.

Planning for the museum is in its preliminary stages, and funds would have to be secured for the trail’s implementation, Conroy said. “The neat thing with the museum is you don’t have to do it all at once,” she said.

Park service community planner Michael Mencarini will be seeking input on the project at the association’s meeting, which will be held at 7:30 p.m. at the Filament Theater, 4041 N. Milwaukee Ave. At the meeting the association will be collecting non-perishable food and toiletry items for a local food pantry.