Dogs, babies and joggers came together — sometimes literally — as The 606, the city’s $95 million elevated park and trail system on the Northwest Side that’s been in the works for more than a decade, finally opened Saturday.
But even though it was the trail’s grand opening, it wasn’t the first time Jason Waldron, who lives nearby in Wicker Park, tried it out. Waldron, 32, said he walked the entire 2.7-mile trail long before the city began revitalizing the old railroad embankment:. But it was different this time.
“There used to be just graffiti and garbage,” Waldron said. “Now, it’s just cleaned up really nicely. It’s nice to see the difference and to see that even neighbors have cleaned up and removed graffiti.”
Soon after Mayor Rahm Emanuel and U.S. Dick Durbin kicked off the opening of the trail that connects four Chicago neighborhoods, bikers, families and joggers were out enjoying the new path.
“We’ve seen one bike accident, one dog almost run over and a lot of bikers yelling at each other,” said Chris Papalia of Bucktown. “But it’s really nice. During the week, I think I’ll come up here to ride my bike.”
Stretching between Ashland Avenue and Ridgeway Avenue along Bloomingdale Avenue, the new linear park consists of the elevated Bloomingdale Trail, connected to ground-level neighborhood parks. Four of those parks opened alongside the trail Saturday. Two others are to open later this year.
The project broke ground in August 2013, paid for by a mix of federal and local government funding and private donations. Nearly half the cost came from private donations through the Trust for Public Land.
Ethan Frye, 3, of Logan Square, takes a sip from the drinking fountain on the opening day of The 606, the Bloomingdale Trail, on Saturday. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times
Among those trying out the bike path Saturday was Deron Johnson, who’s part of a vintage bike group called the Chicago Lakefront Sting Ray Riders.
“We meet on the lakefront at different points, and we ride the trail,” said Johnson, who lives in Chatham and was riding a 1968-vintage Schwinn Sting-Ray. “Now, we get a new path to ride on.”
George Bruno, 3, rode his scooter on a median near the Western Avenue access point — one of 13 places to get on the elevated trail.
George’s mother and father plan to use the trail to run, when they’re not on walks with their kids.
“We’re both runners, so we’re both excited for that, ” said Elle Bruno, of Bucktown. “I think that’s the only thing that Bucktown was missing was a good trail — because we don’t have access to the lake.”
The 606, or Bloomingdale Trail, a 2.7-mile trail and park that runs along an old elevated rail line between Ashland and Ridgeway, opened to the public Saturday. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times
Dan Sandler, of Bucktown, said he hopes the path will someday inch his neighborhood a little closer to the lakefront.
“I think it’s going to connect the neighborhoods from the Humboldt are to the Bucktown area and Wicker Park, and I’m hopeful that it goes all the way to Lincoln Park” said Sandler, 32.
Besides the area for recreation, the trial is also meant to connect the four neighborhoods, attracting more people to shops and businesses in Bucktown, Wicker Park, Logan Square and Humboldt Park.
“I definitely think property values are going to increase because a lot of people think, ‘This is good for the neighborhoods,’ ” Sandler said. “A lot of people are going to come through as the property values are going to increase.”
The only thing he misses: the old train cars that that he used to climb when The 606 was still a deserted railroad.
“The old trains that were all the way down on that trail were kind of cool to seem, but those aren’t there any more, unfortunately,” Sandler said. “I wish they kept them.”