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Proposed trail to Big Marsh Park picks up steam

In September, Active Trans and several partners hosted a virtual open house to share details about the recently-completed feasibility study exploring a proposed walking and biking trail over Lake Calumet, connecting Pullman to Big Marsh Park.

The area is rich with historic assets and beautiful open space, but today heavy industry cuts off many residents from these destinations.

VISION FOR THE NEW TRAIL

The preferred trail route is represented by the yellow line on the map below. The black dots are considered trail alternatives.

The proposed 1.9-mile trail begins at 111th Street and Doty Avenue and continues to the western edge of Lake Calumet along Harborside International Golf Course. The trail then becomes a floating trail that hugs the northern shore of the lake as it travels to the lake’s eastern edge.

The trail continues on land and then mounts a bridge over the railroad tracks on Stony Island Avenue to the entrance of Big Marsh Park.

 

This route was chosen to minimize its impact on wetlands, the Lake Calumet Basin, as well as port and golf course operations. The trail may feature a kayak area, a rest area, and a boat viewing area along the shore.

COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS

Here are some of the projects underway that will connect the future trail to the surrounding communities:

  • 111th Street bridge: The Illinois Department of Transportation has proposed a new $15 million bridge to replace the existing 111th Street bridge over I-94. Unlike the existing bridge, the new bridge would allow access for people walking and biking.
  • 111th Street corridor: The Chicago Department of Transportation will enhance safety for people walking and biking on 111th Street from Cottage Grove Avenue to Corliss Avenue. The speed limit will be reduced from 35 mph to 30 mph, and pedestrian refuge islands and bike lanes will be added. This project will enhance the east-west connections on 111th Street between the Lake Calumet Trail, the Pullman National Historic District, and 111th Street Metra station.
  • Big Marsh Park: The 297-acre park on Stony Island Avenue is operated by the Chicago Park District. It includes hiking and biking trails, as well as a new community and environmental learning facility. A 3-mile trail around the park is currently being built. Friends of Big Marsh Park was awarded a grant from the county to study eastern access to the park, which would improve walking and biking connections between Big Marsh Park, Indian Ridge Marsh, and neighborhoods on the city’s southeast side, including Hegewisch, South Deering, and Trumbull Park.
  • 119th Street protected bike lanes: In September 2021, a one-mile protected bike lane was added to 119th Street between Ashland and Halsted. The project connects residents to the Major Taylor Trail, while increasing access to jobs, grocery stores, greenspace, and other destinations, and is a first step in building out a bicycle network in the Lake Calumet region.

VIRTUAL OPEN HOUSE HIGHLIGHTS

The open house event included presentations and comments from partners in the project, including Epstein Engineering, Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, Friends of Big Marsh, Pullman National Monument, Alderwoman Susan Garza, and U.S. Representative Robin Kelly.

Sue Bennett, Assistant Superintendent at the Pullman National Monument, discussed the monument’s history and recent grand opening. “Many of you have been in the trenches for decades to improve access to green space, biking, hiking, and walking areas,” she said. [The Pullman National Monument] is living proof that it can happen. Continue to do the good work that you’re doing. And please continue to support this wonderful project.”

Alderwoman Garza of the 10th Ward discussed the history of Lake Calumet as a popular destination for boating, fishing, and hiking and shared her excitement that “this new trail will allow a new generation of neighbors to experience the nature and natural beauty of the lake.”

 

 

“In addition to exercise, this trail will provide access to nature and public green space, which is needed across the city of Chicago, but especially for our South Side neighborhoods,” said U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, who represents the 2nd District on the South Side of Chicago.

 


NEXT STEPS

Now that we know the Lake Calumet Trail is feasible to build, what happens next?

Active Trans and other partners will continue to work with the Port District to identify how to move the project forward. This involves identifying a lead transportation agency to pursue Phase I Engineering and apply for federal transportation funding to support the effort.

In the meantime, check out the Lake Calumet Trail webpage to learn more about the study, and please spread the word to help make sure this project becomes a priority for our region.

Creating Big Marsh Park and putting together a plan for better walking and biking access to the park is the result of decades of work by residents and community organizations, and is part of a larger effort to improve walking and biking access in the Lake Calumet region.

Watch the full recording of the open house below.

 

This blog article was co-authored by Alex Perez and Maggie Czerwinski.