Chicago's Bloomingdale Trail closer to reality

Friday, April 3, 2015
Bloomingdale Trail closer to reality
The ribbon trail links Wicker Park, Bucktown, Humboldt Park and Logan Square.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Bloomingdale Rail Line was born an elevated freight line a century ago. When businesses closed, so did the railroad. Left behind are lonely reminders of the past that sit in the midst of a future quite different.

"What popped into my head was this was just crying out to be a trail or a park," Ben Helphand, Friends of Bloomingdale Trail, said.

More than a decade ago Helphand and others began pushing for the conversion of the abandoned rail line into nearly three-mile long linear park. That dream is about to come true.

"And it's taking something that was no longer used and kind of a no man's land and turning it into a place where communities can come together," Beth White, Trust for Public Land, said.

The no man's land becomes a multi-purpose path. Bike, run, walk, or just sit with a vista that's a little different 17 feet up. The ribbon trail that runs from North Ashland Avenue to North Ridgeway links Wicker Park, Bucktown, Humboldt Park and Logan Square.

"There are 80,000 neighbors within a ten minute walk of the park, so imagine the experience of being able to learn how to ride your bike and go for three miles without having to cross a street," White said.

White likens the Bloomingdale Trail to a bracelet with six grade-level pocket parks as its charms. They are all connected by the path above, and together they're called The 606.

The project is not cheap. A little over half of the $95 million price tag is from the federal government, $6 million from local government, and the rest was privately raised. It has had fits and starts, and lousy weather, but the vision that Helphand and others had years ago is about to become reality.

"To have it actually happening, it's like I won't believe it. I won't believe it 'til that opening day in June, and I can walk up here with my wife and daughter. I really won't believe it," Helphand said.