Meeting set on plans for ‘walking museum’


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

Irving Park is believed to be situated along a trail that Native Americans once used to portage their canoes between the two rivers. The National Park Service and the 11-16 Metropolitan Planning Council are helping create a master plan for the proposed "Portage Walking Museum."

Association president Patty Conroy said that the idea for the museum stems in part from the desire of residents to honor the Ralph Freese, the long-time owner of the Chicagoland Canoe Base store who died in 2012. A developer has proposed replacing the former canoe shop with a three-story, 15-unit apartment building.

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

Conroy said that sculptures, murals, historical markers, nature exhibits and information kiosks are among the items that could be installed as part of the project. She said that the walking museum would run through six city neighborhoods.

Existing structures near Irving Park Road may become part of the museum, Conroy said. They 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.

Conroy said that planning for the museum is in its preliminary stages and that funds would have to be secured for the trail. "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 seek opinions 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. The association will collect nonperishable food and toiletry items for a local food pantry at the meeting.