August 7, 2005

Something fishy about new Chicago hotel

CHICAGO (Reuters) - At Chicago's newest downtown "hotel,"
guests can swim out, but will they ever leave?

Friends of the Chicago River, an environmental group, cut
the ribbon on Saturday on the city's first "fish hotel," off
the Michigan Avenue bridge at the south end of the city's
Magnificent Mile shopping district.

The hotel is actually a series of small gardens -- some
floating and others submerged -- densely planted with wetland
vegetation that should be more inviting to urban fish species
than the river's bare, steel walls.

Some 18 species, including green sunfish and largemouth
bass, which live in the Chicago River, could soon be snacking
on clasping-leaf pondweed and bristly sedge planted in the new
habitat. Even Coho salmon, better known in Lake Michigan or on
Chicago menus, could swim by for a snack.

The habitat will be equipped with underwater cameras so
Chicagoans can get a glimpse of the action. Costs for the
project, which was done in partnership with the City of
Chicago, were not disclosed but were funded partly by corporate

Once tried out and tweaked, the concept could be extended
to other urban rivers where fish struggle with a difficult
habitat. "It is exciting to know that this project ... could
guide other cities faced with similar challenges," said
Margaret Frisbie, executive director of the Friends group.