Community leaders kick off planning for Bronzeville Trail, a years-long project

Leaders expect the trail to rival the popular 606 Trail, but fundraising is still an issue.

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John Adams, founder of Bronzeville Trail Task Force, poses for a portrait Saturday near the abandoned Kenwood “L” line embankment in the Bronzeville neighborhood, which the Bronzeville Trail Task Force is proposing to convert into an elevated walking trail.

John Adams, founder of Bronzeville Trail Task Force, poses for a portrait Saturday near the abandoned Kenwood “L” line embankment in the Bronzeville neighborhood, which the Bronzeville Trail Task Force is proposing to convert into an elevated walking trail.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

As the city’s trails and parks were flooded Saturday with Chicagoans eager to enjoy the warmest day of the year so far, community leaders in Bronzeville marked the start of what’s expected to be a years-long project to bring a 606-like trail to the South Side neighborhood.

The plan envisions the abandoned Kenwood “L” embankment transforming into the Bronzeville Trail. John Adams, Bronzeville Trail Taskforce founder, ceremoniously renamed the train tracks during a kick-off party in William-Davis Park on an unseasonably summery afternoon.

“Given the health disparities in Bronzeville, our goal is to encourage robust outdoor activities, and that’s why we want to see the Kenwood ‘L’ embankment turn into a linear park,” Adams said.

The envisioned trail is no small feat — members of the board described an accessible, two-mile trail from 40th and Dearborn streets to 41st Street and Lake Park Avenue, with public art spanning the length of it.

“They got one on the North Side, but this is going to rival the one on the North Side,” Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) said.

Apartment buildings and the abandoned Kenwood “L” line embankment in the Bronzeville neighborhood, which the Bronzeville Trail Task Force is proposing to convert into an elevated walking trail.

Apartment buildings and the abandoned Kenwood “L” line embankment in the Bronzeville neighborhood, which the Bronzeville Trail Task Force is proposing to convert into an elevated walking trail.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Leaders said they expect the trail to be complete in six to seven years. The 606 took close to a decade to complete, and other trails — like the El Paseo trail in Pilsen and Little Village and the Altenheim Line on the West Side — have been proposed, but have yet to come to fruition.

Adams said the task force expects the Bronzeville Trail to cost about as much as the 606, which ended up requiring nearly $100 million. He also noted pre-development costs, including items like environmental mitigation, that he expects to total around $15 million.

The group is already raising the capital, though. During the kick-off, Walter Freeman, Bronzeville Trail chairperson, announced they received a $75,000 grant from the Chicago Community Trust.

The trail also holds historical significance. Before it went out of use about 60 years ago, it connected workers from the South Side to Union Stockyards.

“The past, the present and the future will be documented in ways that we will see its presence on the trail,” said Sherry Williams, a South Side historian and trail board member.

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