CHICAGO
12/21/2011 05:27 pm ET | Updated Dec 21, 2011

Millennium Reserve: Chicago Building Biggest Urban Park In Continental U.S.

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The park Gov. Pat Quinn and Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced plans to construct earlier this month will be the biggest urban park on the continental U.S.

Emanuel and Quinn secured $18 million to fund improvements to over 140,000 acres of undeveloped land on Chicago's South Side, NBC Chicago reports. The land will be developed into a tourist-attracting greenspace called the Millennium Reserve. Once completed, the park will be nearly 10 times the size of Manhattan.

For U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (IL-5), the park, scheduled to begin opening in phases in a few years, represents a labor of love he began as Cook County Commissioner.

"Protecting the environment is the reason I got involved in politics," Rep. Quigley said in a release. "By bringing together partners committed to conservation, the Millennium Reserve plan encourages a shared responsibility to maintain these once-uninhabitable areas, so that we can finally enjoy the benefits of this natural space and the economic development it will bring to Illinois."

Rehabbing the post-industrial land will be a joint initiative between the Chicago Park District, the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, and the city of Chicago, and will include conservational measures to restore and maintain the area's natural resources, Quinn's office said in a release. Funding comes from Illinois Jobs Now!, a capital program investing in improvements to area recreational facilities. The project is also part of President Obama's Great Outdoors Initiative, which oversees and supports community-based conservation work.

Chicago's new urban park is second only to Alaska's Chugach State Park, which stretches nearly half a million acres but is technically located within the Anchorage municipality, according to The Atlantic.

First announced on Dec. 9, the project could be, in part, a response to a study released the day before by the Trust for Public Land that found Chicago lagging behind other major cities on available park space. In spite of the limited greenspace, Chicagoans visit parks at the third highest rate of any U.S. city, the study found.

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