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Big Marsh Park Bringing Dirt Bike Trails, 'Treetop Adventure' to South Side

 Big Marsh. Chicago Park District. South Deering
Big Marsh plans
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CHICAGO — Cyclists, rejoice: The 278-acre Big Marsh park will be transformed into a bike park complete with a treetop adventure course, officials said this week.

The park at 110th Street and Stony Island Avenue in South Deering also will feature opportunities for fishing, canoeing, hiking, nature-walking and bird-watching.

At a Wednesday meeting, the Chicago Park District voted to approve a $500,000 contract with Hitchcock Design Group for landscape design services. The firm designed the Morton Arboretum Children's Adventure Garden, among other projects.

"What we want to do is bring kids and families down for other active purposes," said Rob Rejman, Park District director of planning and construction, at the meeting.

 The Valmont Bike Park in Colorado inspired the Chicago Park District's plans for the South Side's Big Marsh Bike Park.
The Valmont Bike Park in Colorado inspired the Chicago Park District's plans for the South Side's Big Marsh Bike Park.
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Courtesy Valmont Bike Facebook

Big Marsh planners were inspired by bike parks like Valmont in Boulder, Colorado, billed as one of the "biggest, best bike parks in the country" at the Park District meeting. Valmont features jumps, ramps and a concession stand, among other amenities.

The park's improvements will "create new opportunities for residents of Chicago to enjoy eco recreation activities" and "will draw people to the Calumet Area from all over the region," according to the Park District meeting agenda.

The agenda did not address specifics of the treetop adventure course, which typically is an elevated ropes course that sometimes features ziplines.

"I think if they can find a way to bring people in to Big Marsh to discover the truly amazing wildlife and natural beauty that exists right here in the city of Chicago, that's fantastic," said Jack Darin, director of the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club.

Phase l of the plan is budgeted at $4.5 million. The entire project is budgeted at $30 million. The Park District will invest up to $2 million to spur fundraising from outside sources.

"These are all, we think ... the kind of components that we can start ... to get people down there and then build on to expand that bike park," Rejman said at the Wednesday meeting.

Invasive species will be removed, and the area will be developed to "protect or further enhance the overall natural habitat of the park property, including sensitivity to flora, fauna and wetlands," the agenda stated.

Eventually, the park may include a convention building and visitors center.

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