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Bloomingdale Trail Entry Park in Bucktown to Offer Boulders, Not Benches

By Alisa Hauser | April 9, 2013 11:53am

BUCKTOWN —  Work is set to resume "any day now" on a new public park at Milwaukee Avenue and Leavitt Street in Bucktown adjacent to the Bloomingdale Trail, officials said.

The park at 1805 N. Milwaukee Ave, just north of Leavitt Street, will be one of 12 access points to the 2.7-mile Bloomingdale Trail, Chicago's first elevated, multiuse linear park which runs through the Logan Square, Humboldt Park, Bucktown and Wicker Park neighborhoods.

Work on the main trail is expected to begin in July and will take about 18 months at a cost of $91 million, it was announced earlier this month.

The 13,000-square-foot, 0.3 acre park will feature a circular path, a small hill at its center and be considered "a more passive park," with boulders and trees, said Jamie Simone, urban parks program manager for the Trust for Public Land, which is developing the park in partnership with the city.

Some work began in the fall but was halted for the winter, she said.

No tables or benches are planned at the present time for the park, Simone said.

Though Simone said the park is expected to be open "sometime in June," those hoping to access the trail via the new park will have to wait until the construction is complete in fall of 2014. The first phase of the park's creation does not include constructing a ramp, which will be built later in the process, to connect to the trail.

Andrew Gutterman, a design principal at Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, which designed the park, further elaborated on its features:

"The center is an open lawn that can support casual seating and activities. It's meant to be fairly simple," he said "The limestone boulders will provide for informal seating as well as a playful environment for children and families. The tops of the boulders are flat but they will vary in height from one to two feet tall."

Gutterman said portions of the limestone will be buried and will "be much too large to be moved by anyone."

According to Gutterman, the entire perimeter of park will be fenced in, save for three entrances: on on Milwaukee Avenue and one on the public alley side.

Other amenities at the park include bicycle racks and a drinking fountain.

According to Simone, $450,000 in donations from Metlife Foundation and Stenning on Lake Geneva Conservancy Society are being used to create the park, which is being built by Paul Borg Construction and designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates.

In addition to the Milwaukee Avenue and Leavitt Street Park, Bucktown will be home to  two other trail access parks:  Churchill Park at 2007 W. Churchill Street (at Damen Avenue) and Walsh Park at 1722 N. Ashland Ave.

Though it has not been determined when the other trail access parks in Bucktown will be constructed, members of the Bucktown Community Organization will spend Earth Day on April 20  removing plants at the Damen Avenue entrance to Churchill Park, president Steve Jensen said.

"We'll be relocating all the flowers, hundreds of plants, to the backyard at the library," Jensen said.

Based on renderings, the ramp leading to the trail at the planed Churchill access park will force the removal of the greenery, so Jensen said his group is taking a "pro-active" approach to removing the plants.

As for the trail, Jensen said, "We're excited but we are cautious about its safety and it being protected from taggers and vandals."

In addition to the access parks, there will be seven ADA-accessible ramps along Bloomingdale Street between Ashland and Ridgway avenues which connect to the trail.

Simone said that some parking may need to be eliminated on Bloomingdale Street to accommodate the entry ramps. Traffic will be changed from two ways to one way westbound on Bloomingdale Street between Ashland Avenue west to Humboldt Street, Simone said.