Bike Path Extension, New Park in Edgewater Meet With Mixed Reviews

By Benjamin Woodard on May 9, 2013 7:49am 

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 A proposal for a renovated park and an extension of a bike path was met with mixed reviews from neighbors.
Edgewater Bike Path Extension
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EDGEWATER — A new park and an extension of the lakefront bike path to Thorndale Avenue could be coming to the neighborhood, according to plans detailed by the alderman.

Speaking to residents Tuesday night, Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) introduced early plans for the new recreation destinations.

Osterman said other community meetings would be held soon for the new park, located between Hollywood and Bryn Mawr avenues at the curve of Lake Shore Drive, which could include two tennis courts, a water feature and a new playground.

Sheli Lulkin, the president of an association of condo owners along Sheridan Road, said she had been fighting for years to keep what's there now — grass and old playground equipment — from becoming a dog park.

She and other neighbors seem to have succeeded in winning the alderman's support to keep the dogs away, but the park has other problems.

"It’s a park right now that has a playground and grass for the homeless to sleep on," she said. "And that’s not good for a playground."

Residents living nearby have long complained about the number of homeless who take refuge in the park, Lulkin said.

"They really want it to be a people-friendly area, where people come to use it, and not a hidden area for the homeless," she said of the park, which is flanked on two sides by Lake Shore Drive. "It’s not that we hate the homeless, it's that we love the kids more."

According to Osterman's office, plans for the park are moving forward, but designs, other than rough sketches, haven't been developed by the Chicago Park District.

Lulkin said the tennis courts, new playground equipment and possibly a water feature would help bring people down from their high rises and onto the lakefront.

Extending the lakefront bike path, which now ends at Ardmore, was hotly contested by some of the more vocal residents.

The proposal calls for either a surface-level path or a boardwalk, with an estimated price tag of $4 million, Osterman said.

"There's bike problems all over, all over, so for you to change the bike path from Ardmore to Thorndale will create more problems, different problems," said one resident of 5801 N. Sheridan Road, which would overlook the path extension. "And it is absolutely a waste of $4 million, so forget about it."

Osterman said he had already found some funding, $1.5 million, for the extension, but he assured his constituents that "at this stage, it's just an idea."

The idea was first dropped by Mayor Rahm Emanuel when he spoke to the Sun-Times in March about his $3 billion "strategic vision" for seven Chicago neighborhoods.

"This would be an elevated bike trail," he was quoted as saying. "We would continue the [lakefront] bike trail. It would be more of a boardwalk form because of the lake levels. Now they’re low, and they’ve been low for quite a while, but eventually, they’re gonna come back up."

The mayor's hope isn't likely to come to fruition, said Lulkin and aides from the alderman's office.

One aide said the proposal is "too big, too expensive" and fraught with too much opposition from lakefront dwellers.

Lulkin said people in the area are fed up with bicyclists riding on the sidewalks and zipping by the elderly on the lakefront.

"It's probably not going to" happen, Lulkin said.

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