The Campaign for a Free and Clear Lakefront is a grassroots coalition to remove Lakeshore Drive from Grant Park, and eventually the entire Chicago shoreline.

Let's reclaim Chicago's lakefront

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Michael Burton's Letter to the Editor reproduced below is the featured letter for the Sun Times today!

As more than 20,000 cyclists enjoy a car-free ride on Chicago's lakefront during Bike the Drive on Sunday, it is important that we all remember the many historical battles that were fought to preserve our shoreline as open space and the many challenges that remain.

Chicagoans can thank many of our courageous forefathers for bequeathing the city a largely uncluttered lakefront. The Canal Commission of 1836 first proclaimed that Chicago's shoreline shall remain ''Forever open, clear and free.'' Ma and Cap Streeter used a shotgun to defend Chicago's lakefront from encroaching development. Montgomery Ward fought numerous legal battles to preserve Grant Park as open space. Daniel Burnham's 1909 Chicago Plan included a tranquil green shoreline.

Unfortunately, today, an eight-lane superhighway separates Chicago from a truly free and clear lakefront. But a growing movement to eliminate the shoreline pollution, dangers and unsightliness of Lake Shore Drive offers Chicago hope to re-establish our open lakefront legacy.

It's time to think big. Grant Park serves an international showplace as well as the city's front yard.The only real solution is to reroute Lake Shore Drive's traffic out of the park and eventually away from the shoreline. After all, who wants a superhighway in their front yard?

There are precedents for a bold move such as rerouting Lake Shore Drive. In the early 1970s, Portland, Ore., moved the Harbor View Highway to create McCall Park on the shore of the Willamette River. Traffic was rerouted to a nearby parallel expressway. Similar to Grant Park, McCall Park is a downtown park that hosts events and serves as Portland's front yard, but it has the advantage of unencumbered access to the shoreline.

Similarly, much of Chicago's lakefront through traffic could be rerouted to the Kennedy and Ryan expressways. And by adding transit upgrades -- light rail, trolleys and buses -- access to Grant Park would be increased, and congestion and pollution eliminated.

And when considering precedents, let's not forget the rerouting of Lake Shore Drive that created the Museum Campus on the southeastern edge of Grant Park. The Museum Campus has garnered rave reviews and has become a peaceful oasis for pedestrians and cyclists. Its success should be extended north to the rest of Grant Park and eventually to the entire Chicago Lakefront.

Bold moves take vision and courage. Chicago's lakefront can no longer be saddled with incremental, small plans. It's time to remove Lake Shore Drive and reclaim our lakefront for the peaceful enjoyment of all Chicagoans -- not only once a year, but every day.

Michael Burton, secretary,
Campaign for a Free and Clear Lakefront