Weeds used to peek through the abandoned rail ties on the Bloomingdale Trail, an elevated 16-foot-tall freight line that stretched across Chicago’s near northwest side. For years, the freight line sat unused, a public secret of sorts used by neighborhood runners and the occasional graffiti artist. Nobody gave second thought to an old player piano that was left atop a bridge a few years ago and silently stood watch for months.
This year, however, the trail has come to life with scores of workers and cranes seeking to remake the trail into an ambitious park system that will change the character of Chicago’s west side. In progress now and set to open in 2015, the 606 (a reference to the “606” that starts local Chicago zip codes), will repurpose elements of the city’s industrial heritage to create an alternative transportation corridor for pedestrians and cyclists, according to Beth White, the Chicago Region Director for the Trust for Public Land, which is managing the project.
“It’s not only making the next great park, it’s addressing other issues,” she says. “I hope in ten years this serves as a model of creating something with integrity. People are beginning to understand the long-term nature of infrastructure projects. I’ve never seen this level of volunteer commitment and passion.”