Bloomingdale Trail to be world's longest elevated park

August 18, 2012 (CHICAGO)

The Canadian Railroad Police stopped me when I was jogging the other day up on the trail, or up on the railroad, I should say, and just made sure that I was aware that it's private property and I shouldn't be using it," said Andrew Williamson.

The tracks have been dormant for years. A neighborhood group called the Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail is leading the movement to turn the nearly three-mile stretch of land into park space.

"When the railroad stopped using it really actively in the early 1990s, nature reclaimed the space," said Ben Helphand of Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail. "Very quickly it was gorgeous. People just started treating it like a park because they were looking for something like that in their neighborhood. This just offered itself."

The group partnered with the Chicago Park District and the trust for public land to get approval and to raise money for the $90 million project. The trust for public land is a national organization that creates and preserves parks.

"One of the most exciting aspects about the Bloomingdale is it connects four very different communities with one another," said Beth White. "So what had been a barrier, a wall essentially that had been 16-feet high will now be serving as a connector to these communities."

Five new parks will be built to provide access to the elevated space. Work will begin later this month to add playground equipment, seating and artwork to this former vacant lot near Milwaukee and Leavitt.

"I think it'll be great for the neighborhood," said Brett Tracy. "More people will want to live here. It will become a more desirable area."

There are only two other elevated parks in the world. They are in Paris and New York. Chicago's version is expected to be completed in the fall of 2014.

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