What kinds of tall tales have you heard about the Bloomingdale Trail? The plan has been in the works for over a decade, and with those plans we’ve all heard a constant stream of fictional updates on the city project’s status.
“It’s opening this summer!”
”I heard it’s not happening anymore.”
“It’ll be as crowded as the Lakefront Trail.”
Misinformation be damned! The weather is warming, and I think it’s safe to say we’re all ready to pedal on down that elusive elevated path. Let’s take a minute to get the facts straight.
The Bloomingdale Park and Trail is a multi-use recreational trail planned for the top of an abandoned, 2.7-mile railroad viaduct between Ashland and Ridgeview Avenues. Back in the 1870s, the Canadian Pacific Railroad received permission to install tracks on Bloomingdale Road. About 30 years later, the city of Chicago passed an ordinance requiring the railroad to elevate the tracks for safety reasons, and freight trains ran on the elevated rail from 1913 until the early 2000s.
As freight traffic slowed, city planners wondered what to do with the existing infrastructure. The recreation-based plan was proposed, and the Bloomingdale Trail has been in progress, albeit slow, ever since. At long last, in January 2013, the Canadian Pacific Railway sold the viaduct to the city of Chicago, and that’s where we stand today. Three park-based entry points are planned so far:
- Walsh Park (1722 N. Ashland in Wicker Park)
- Churchill Field Park (1825 N. Damen in Bucktown)
- Julia de Burgos Park (1803 N. Albany in Humboldt Park)
The most recent renderings of Bloomingdale Trail design plans are viewable to the public. The latest news release from the Mayor’s Office claims that they are on track for a summer groundbreaking, and the project could open to visitors by the end of 2014.
Speaking of the mayor, Emanuel and his office will be key players in the success of this project. If Millennium Park and Navy Pier were Mayor Daley’s public places legacies, then Bloomingdale Trail is set to be Mayor Emanuel’s. Back in the mayoral election of 2011, he was the one candidate who promised to get it done before his first term ended in 2015. And as things stand right now, it sounds like he plans on keeping that promise. “The Bloomingdale Park and Trail will be one of the most unique and user-friendly open spaces to be developed anywhere in the country,” Emanuel declared in the aforementioned news release.
Many have drawn parallels between Bloomingdale Trail and New York City’s popular High Line, an elevated public park on Manhattan’s West Side that opened its first section in 2009. Unlike the Bloomingdale, High Line prohibits biking.
Anxious for the Bloomingdale Trail’s opening? Until it opens, there are a number of ways to get involved. Check out opportunities from donating to volunteering.