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Elevated Bloomingdale Trail, Pulse of 'The 606,' Opens to Massive Crowds

By Alisa Hauser | June 6, 2015 1:02pm | Updated on June 8, 2015 8:39am
 Images from opening day.
The 606 Opening Day, June 6, 2015
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CHICAGO —  On its opening morning, thousands of eager children, teens, adults and leashed dogs ascended onto the Bloomingdale Trail, a 2.7-mile-long elevated walking, biking, jogging, skateboarding, wheelchair and scooter path spanning four Chicago neighborhoods.

Some cyclists were so happy they blared music from their handlebar stereo systems, while children squealed with delight and dogs explored the dirt to do some business. 

The centerpiece of what's arguably the most anticipated Chicago park in recent memory, the Bloomingdale Trail — built on a former railroad line that runs from Bucktown and Wicker Park to the east and Humboldt Park and Logan Square to the west  — has 12 access points where folks can hop on or off.

Four of the 12 entries and exits are in parks.

Chicagoans are encouraged to use the hashtag #The606Go on social media to share their own photos and videos.

Check out our map and Q & A guide to The 606 and Bloomingdale Trail.

"[Before,] it was dirty, ugly, it had nothing. They made this useful," said Reynaldo Roa, a Humboldt Park resident who has lived near the defunct railroad line for 16 years but avoided it until Saturday.

Around 8:45 a.m., Roa was standing on the trail, watching from above as his two sons played in Julia de Burgos Park, 1805 N. Albany Ave.

At the trail's western head, next to the McCormick Tribune YMCA, 1834 N. Lawndale Ave., Efi Verhek, her husband, Rob, and their two children — one in a stroller and the other riding a plastic Big Wheel — headed up a circular path to an observatory with a telescope.

Earlier, the Vershak family had entered the trail at California Avenue and walked about a mile west to Ridgeway.

"It's been a great, awesome morning so far. It's nice to finally see the trail from above rather than below," Rob Vershak said.

Alisa Hauser says Saturday's open resulted in 'permagrin':

Mayor Rahm Emanuel at the opening of The 606, June 5, 2015. [Steve Niketopoulos]

A bike parade, led by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, kicked off around 9:45 a.m.

"Are you guys good? Isn't this the greatest?" Emanuel said to folks standing on the path shoulder as he whizzed by.

Many cyclists were riding very slow or even walking their bikes, due to the massive crowds.

Near the Western Avenue bridge, a little girl on a scooter veered into the oncoming lane, prompting a cyclist to shout, "Yo, watch it!"

The girl's father replied, "C'mon, that's intense, this is opening day."

Tom Krystyn, a cyclist and member of Chainlink, an online biking community, was standing next to his bike as the parade passed.

"It's kind of crowded today. It will take some getting used to, for everyone to know the protocol," Krystyn said.

More parades, performances and processions atop the trail kept the crowds going strong all afternoon.

Marching brass band Mucca Pazza walked the length of the trail.

On Humboldt Boulevard, below the trail, revelers danced to live music.

But not everyone waiting for the trail to open got to fully enjoy it on Saturday. 

Just after an 8 a.m. ribbon cutting ceremony on Damen Avenue, alongside an access ramp across from Churchill Park (which is still a construction zone), Sara Garske, a Bucktown resident, looked wistfully at the people headed onto the path.

"My fiancee is in Vegas until Sunday night. He said he wouldn't marry me if I went on it without him. We shook [hands] on it," Garske said.

Sara Garske can't enjoy the trail until her fiancee returns from Las Vegas. [All photos by DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser]

Children were eager to ascend the trail from the ramp adjacent to Julia de Burgos Park early Saturday.

Police officers on The 606.

Cyclist just east of Western Avenue, along The 606.

Cyclist just east of Kimball Avenue, along The 606.

Boulders at Park 567 in Bucktown.

Ascending onto the trail from Park 567 in Bucktown.

Big wheel on The 606 and bike parking.

A young roller blader enters the trail via Walsh Park.

Crossing the bridge at Milwaukee Avenue in Bucktown/Wicker Park.

At the festival along Humboldt Park Boulevard.

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