LOGAN SQUARE — Officials involved in the newly christened 606 park system came together Tuesday evening to unveil final plans for the nearly three-mile-long park and get into the nitty gritty of construction schedules and road closures.
The public meeting — held at the McCormick Tribune YMCA in Logan Square — drew more than 100 nearby residents as well as others who'd been pushing for something to be done with the abandoned rail line for a long time.
For those who once met in the basement of Handlebar a decade ago to dream up plans for the line, the final realization of the 2.7-mile elevated park system came as an enormous victory.
"We all shared the same love for this underused, overgrown thing," said Ben Helphand of NeighborSpace, a group that seeks to reclaim public lands for community gardens and parks.
Now, more than 10 years later, officials are preparing for an August groundbreaking for the first phase of the project, set to be finished in November 2014.
To start, 38 bridges along the tracks will have to be repaired and rehabilitated, which will result in the some weekend road closures including Ashland, Western and Milwaukee avenues.
Bloomingdale Avenue, the small street that runs alongside the trail will be closed for the duration of the construction project, though CDOT project manager Johnny Morcos said residents with driveways on Bloomingdale will have access.
Attendees also got sneak previews of other plans for The 606, including a skate park, event center and stage and an observatory designed to line up with the setting sun.
The park will extend from Ridgeway Avenue on the west to Ashland Avenue on the east with ADA-accessible ramps every quarter mile, including in the five entry parks. Planners hope to eventually have the trail extend all the way to the Chicago River.
That is the hope of an Irving Park resident and avid cyclist who'd to see the line at least built out to Elston Avenue — a main biking artery — to create a safe east-west route.
"There aren't any good east-west bike corridors in this part of town, and we [cyclists] really see this as a huge safety concern for cyclists and children," he said.
The plans were well received by other neighbors who came to the meeting, many of whom have been following the process for years.
One of those was retired Logan Square resident Betsy Martens, 68, who attended a four-day design charette in October 2011.
The charette — an intense period of planning or design — solicited ideas for the trail from community members.
"I really like how they focused on getting so much community input," she said. "I see a lot of that it in the design."