As new park and cultural developments continue to come to fruition in the Lake Calumet region on Chicago’s Far South Side, Active Trans has been working closely with grassroots leaders, local officials and partner organizations to push forward improved pedestrian, bicycle and public transit connections in the area.
From Steelworkers Park to the Pullman National Monument, the Park at Big Marsh and beyond, there are an incredible array of existing and planned cultural and open space destinations on Chicago’s Far South Side.
The Chicago Park District recently launched a new website highlighting many of these new and existing destinations.
Unfortunately, though, access to these areas, as well as to many of the nearby residential communities, continues to be a substantial barrier.
Residents who rely on walking, biking or public transit to access jobs, school or retail destinations continue to be faced with significant obstacles, including large arterial roadways, industrial sites, active railroad lines and waterways like the Calumet River and Lake Calumet. People seeking to visit the area to access places like the Park at Big Marsh face many of the same barriers.
Starting with the release of our Big Marsh Access Action Plan in 2015 and continuing through our advocacy around the Chicago Park District’s Southeast Area Wide Plan completed earlier this year, Active Trans has been working with grassroots leaders and community partners to push decision makers and public agencies to address the access and transportation challenges in the area.
And we won’t stop until the people who live, work and visit the Far South Side have the safe, convenient and reliable transportation options they deserve.
Here are a few updates on our Lake Calumet access advocacy:
- Trail connection across Lake Calumet: Creating a connection from the Pullman neighborhood across Lake Calumet to the Park at Big Marsh and other destinations is an idea that has been around for a while. We captured it in our Big Marsh Access Action Plan and it was included in the Chicago Park District’s Southeast Area Wide Plan.
Earlier this year, Active Trans partnered with the Illinois International Port District to apply for funding for preliminary planning and engineering to make this project a reality. While we didn’t get this round of funding, we are actively working with the port district and other partners, including Metropolitan Planning Council and National Parks Conservation Association, to line up the resources needed to move this project forward.
- Creating a safer 130th Street: For years, residents of the Chicago’s Riverdale community area have been pushing for a safe place to walk on 130th Street. Not only is this an important local connection to the only nearby grocery store, but it is also a key connection for the regional trail network, providing access from the Major Taylor Trail east towards the Lake Calumet Area.
In 2013, Deloris Lucas of the local Safety & Transportation Advisory Council worked with Active Trans to conduct a walkability assessment of the area to draw attention to the lack of safe conditions for walking and biking on 130th Street. This advocacy helped lead to the City of Chicago successfully applying for a grant to develop a multi-modal transportation plan for the community. Lucas and Active Trans are currently participating on the project’s steering committee, providing an opportunity to advocate for better walking and biking connections along 130th Street.
Getting this plan included in the final Riverdale Multi-Modal Plan will set the stage for projects to move forward. You can learn more about the plan and provide input online.
- Connecting Pullman to Riverdale and Beaubien Woods: Recently, Active Trans convened a meeting of local advocates at Carver High School to talk about local trail priorities. Local advocates and our allies at Openlands have been talking about the potential to connect the Pullman neighborhood south to the Riverdale community area for a long time.
This connection, sometimes called the Kensington Trail, would create a great regional connection between a forest preserve destination and the historic Pullman neighborhood and national monument. Active Trans is working with a network of local advocates to set up meetings to explore ways to push this project forward.
We’ll be continuing to advocate around these priorities and more in 2018 and beyond, including working with our local partners to organize several community events to help mobilize support for moving these important projects forward.
Active Trans' advocacy work in the Lake Calumet area is supported in part by a generous grant from REI.