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Bloomingdale Trail: Walsh Park Neighbors Upset Over Planned Skate Park

By  Alisa Hauser and Lizzie Schiffman Tufano | August 16, 2013 12:20pm 

 Skaters at Logan Square Skate Park said they would welcome a new park, planned for Walsh Park in Bucktown at 1722 N. Ashland Ave.  Whereas the Logan Square Park is located beneath the highway, the Bucktown park will face a residential neighborhood street.   Meanwhile, the new skate park will displace Walsh Park's Dog Park.
Walsh Park Skate Park/Logan Square Skate Park/Dog Park
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BUCKTOWN —  A planned skate park on the eastern end of the Bloomingdale Trail — an elevated multiuse trail spanning 2.7 miles and running through four Chicago neighborhoods — isn't making much of an impression on some folks who will be living close to the half pipes and ramps.

Predicting "a recipe for chaos," some residents of Marshfield Avenue and Bloomingdale Street in Bucktown voiced their concerns at the Chicago Park District's August Board Meeting Wednesday.

John Knoerle, who lives in 1600 block of West Bloomingdale Street, just northwest of Walsh Park at 1722 N. Ashland Ave. and within a few hundred feet of the planned skate park, asked the park district board to reconsider what he called the "ill-advised plan."

 A rendering of the Walsh Park Skate Park and Event Plaza.
A rendering of the Walsh Park Skate Park and Event Plaza.
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The 606

The skate park will serve as an expansion to the park, on tap to be the largest of five parks adjacent to the Bloomingdale Trail. The overall project, trails and parks included, is being called "The 606," a reference to the first three numbers in Chicago's zip codes.

The planned park was described by Rob Rejman, the district's director of planning and construction, as "an appropriate bookend to a much larger system that fits into a puzzle piece."

But those who live near the park are concerned about noise and an influx of people descending upon their quiet enclave.

"You might say that skateboarders have every right to use the street just like all other vehicles with wheels, but the problem is that our block has no street, just a sidewalk, a sidewalk that no doubt will become a favorite passage way for cyclists approaching Walsh Park and the Bloomingdale Trail from the west since it is the most direct route," Knoerle said.

Knoerle's neighbor, Nancy Kass, agreed: "We think toddlers, dogs and skateboarders don't mix, none of them mix, no, not in the same area," she said.

Currently ending at Bloomingdale Street, Walsh Park at 1722 N. Ashland Ave. will be expanded about one-third of a block north of Bloomingdale Street. A vacant park district building will be demolished to make way for what organizers of the $91 million project are calling a "Wheel Friendly Event Plaza."

Lisa Gerstner lives directly across the street from where the park will be. 

"It will be loud and very well lit," Gerstener said. "If they are going to have a skate park, why can't they have it on Ashland where it's not in front of and next to residential properties on a quiet neighborhood street?"

Gerstner also questioned why the city needs to build a skate park when there is an existing skate park at Logan Boulevard and Western Avenue.

Around 10 p.m. Thursday, about 10 skaters and bikers were using the ramps at the Logan Square Skate Park at 2430 W. Logan Blvd., directly under the highway, where it was impossible to distinguish skate park noise from the traffic above.

Kara Guire, 42, owns an online skateboard company, Flipside USA, and was skating in the park.

Made aware of the plans for the new skate park by a reporter, Guire said she thinks it "sounds great, especially if it will welcome bikes since bikes aren't supposed to be at [the Logan Square park] but come there anyway."

"There's not many places for bikers to go. I feel for them," Guire said.

But it's not just residents who live next to the future skate park who are upset.

The construction of the trail, expected to take over a year and begin any day now, will also displace the Walsh Park Dog Park at 1722 N. Ashland Ave. which abuts the trail at Marshfield Avenue and Bloomingdale Street.

Ananda Breslof, president of the Walsh Park Advisory Council and chair of its Dog Friendly Area (DFA), said the park is used by close to 100 people and their dogs daily. When the trail construction begins, the dog park will be closed and eventually relocated.

Breslof feels the district has shut neighbors out of the planning process.

"Chicago Fire did a better job of canvassing and letting us know they're filming at Lottie's than  [the park district] did about Walsh Park being the hub [of the trail]," Breslof said. "The designs were already made by the time we saw them." 

While Rejman said Wednesday "there's been quite a community process related to the entire 606,"  Breslof counters, "Just because they had community meetings doesn't mean they had a community process."

"It's a frustrating and challenging issue, not just for the dog park but the immediate neighbors. The neighborhood is going to be drastically changed. Community process means you should include the community in your design plans and then they have a sense of involvement and pride instead of resentment," Breslof said.

At Wednesday's board meeting, Breslof requested the board consider allowing a temporary dog-friendly area when the current one is under a relocation and redesign process due to the 606 project.  

Rejman touted the fact that once the 606 project is complete, Walsh Park's new dog -friendly area will be larger in size and relocated closer to Ashland Avenue and further away from the playground.

When asked Thursday if The 606 planners have a timeline on when the relocated dog park will be open in Walsh Park, Marj Halperin, a spokeswoman for the Trust for Public Land, said "not at this time."

The Trust for Public Land is developing Walsh Park and The 606's other entry parks in partnership with the city.