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Chicago to put unused NATO funds toward parks

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(AP file photo)
Protesters walk past Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's house May 19 ahead of the NATO summit in Chicago. Emanuel said Saturday that about $6 million in leftover funding raised for the summit will go toward parks and recreational projects in the city.

CHICAGO – Millions of leftover dollars from the spring's NATO summit in Chicago will go toward improving the city's parks, constructing boathouses along the Chicago River and other recreational projects.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel revealed his plan Saturday to use roughly $7 million – most of it NATO surplus funds.

Emanuel had pledged that city taxpayers wouldn't foot the bill for May's summit, the budget instead being a mix of private and federal funds.

The mayor said Saturday that approximately $6 million of privately raised funds will go toward the city projects and $1 million will come from the Chicago Park District's capital funds. He specifically outlined five city parks that will get $2.5 million for renovations and playground equipment.

"The resources will be invested in our neighborhoods," Emanuel said at a news conference at Riis Park on the city's northwest side, one of the sites that will benefit.

Another $2 million will be put toward boathouses, which will provide kayaking and concessions. Last year, Emanuel announced the construction of the boathouses in hopes of developing the city's "next recreational frontier." Each structure is estimated to cost roughly $4 million.

Another project aimed at creating a nearly 3-mile park trail on an abandoned rail line through the city's northwest side will get $2 million. City officials also said that about $500,000 will go toward expanding the Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks program.

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