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.

End Lakefront Obstructions

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Michael Burton
Chicago Sun-Times Featured Letter

Chicago's open lakefront is the envy of countless other shoreline cities that have privatized waterfronts or cluttered them with buildings and other structures. But the city's latest plan to build a pedestrian bridge at Queen's Landing [''Lakefront bridge plan revived,'' metro story, Oct. 14] defies not only Chicago's long open lakefront legacy, it also defies public opinion and common sense.

Chicago's lakefront has been preserved as open space only through much human toil. We all owe a great debt to Chicago forefathers such as Daniel Burnham and Montgomery Ward, who fought to keep the lakefront "forever open, free and clear."

While Chicagoans are rightfully proud of our beautiful ''front yard,'' it's a travesty that so much has been paved to accommodate the selfish needs of private automobile drivers. Lake Shore Drive's eight lanes of concrete and resulting pollution, noise, dangers and unsightliness is the largest violation of Chicago's lakefront open space legacy.

It's time we see Lake Shore Drive for what it truly is: an ugly embarrassment to our otherwise wonderful lakefront, and work to be better stewards of our shoreline. Other cities, such as Portland, Ore., have depaved waterfront highways to create downtown spaces that are more accommodating to recreation and quiet contemplation while emphasizing more sustainable transit modes.

Instead of facilitating high-speed lakefront traffic by removing the Queen's Landing crosswalk and replacing it with costly, unsightly infrastructure such as a pedestrian bridge, we should honor Chicago's open lakefront legacy by removing shoreline concrete -- not cluttering it with more!

Hundreds of Chicagoans, including aldermen and other community leaders, have signed a petition recently presented to Mayor Daley urging him to immediately restore the Queen's Landing crosswalk. Restoring the crosswalk is a simple, quick and cost-effective solution to improve lakefront pedestrian access.

Lakefront infrastructure should prioritize gentler, more efficient modes of transportation, such as light rail, bicycles and walking. Restoring the Queen's Landing crosswalk is an important first step. And sure, it would take a lot of effort to rid Chicago of Lake Shore Drive and replace it with a more sustainable lakefront transportation system, but after all, who wants a superhighway in their front yard?

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