[These pieces also run in Time Out Chicago magazine.]
I recently fielded a couple different questions from Time Out Chicago readers about current and future Chicago greenways. I felt a little funny about giving people instructions on how to get up on the Bloomingdale Line, which is still Canadian Pacific Railroad property and has “No Trespassing” signs posted. But until the railroad does a better job of securing the line or the City of Chicago steps up and takes ownership of the right-of-way (which should be any day now) and erects more effective fencing, people are going to continue to go up there to stroll, jog and hang out anyway.
Q: How come there’s lighting on the lakeshore bike path EVERYWHERE except the stretch between Fullerton and Diversey? – M.B., Lakeview
A: Good news: you’ll soon be singing, “Hello lamppost, whatcha knowin’?” This section near Theater on the Lake, was the site of a 2003-2005 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers seawall reconstruction project. The federal funding for this rehab didn’t include money for lighting, says Chicago Park District spokeswoman Zvezdana Kubat. Her agency is currently working with the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) to secure another federal grant to install nineteen new light poles on this stretch, hopefully by the end of the year. Kubat says there are actually a few other lighting gaps on the Lakefront Trail but the park district eventually plans to eventually illuminate the entire 18.5-mile path. “The trail is so heavily used, not just for recreation but also as a transportation route,” she says. “Now that it’s getting dark earlier it’s especially important to keep the trail well-lit at night. Obviously we want people to be able to see where they’re going.”
Q: On September 8, there was a Bloomingdale Trail design meeting at the Congress Theater. The finished elevated park still seems years away. How can I get up there and enjoy it now? – Gabby, Andersonville
A: Mayor Emanuel has pledged to build the Bloomingdale Trail, a 2.75-mile multiuse path, on this site within four years. In the meantime this dormant rail line, at 1800 N. between Lawndale Avenue and the Chicago River, is still Canadian Pacific Railway property. While fences were recently installed to keep trespassers out, the line is still popular for strolling, jogging and partying. If you’d like to learn more about the Bloomingdale without breaking the law, there are three community input meeting in early October; see the Friends of the Bloomingdale site for details. Otherwise, here are four places you can access the line – at your own risk.
Ashland Avenue (1600 West)
South of the Bloomingdale, on the east side of Ashland, scramble up the embankment, climb over a low chainlink fence and squeeze through a hole in a second fence. Don’t venture into the graffiti-lined area under the Kennedy if you’re wearing flip-flops – the space is littered with hypodermic needles.
Milwaukee Avenue and Leavitt Street (2200 West)
Just north of the intersection on the west side of Leavitt there’s a gap between iron fencing and a concrete wall where a path leads up the embankment. To get around security fencing at the top you’ll have to hoist yourself over the viaduct’s rickety railing – be careful!
[flickr]photo:6173765286[/flickr] Security fencing on the Bloomingdale at Leavitt Street
Whipple Street (3030 West)
North of the Bloomingdale, enter Albany-Whipple Park, a new greenspace with insect-themed playground equipment, from the east. At the west end of the talli-ish iron fencing at the base of the embankment there’s a low concrete wall you can clamber up.
Lawndale Avenue (3700 West)
At the southeast corner of the parking lot for the McCormick Tribune YMCA, 1834 N. Lawndale, site of the community input meetings, a path leads up the embankment.