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The Bloomingdale Trail Is Open - Now What? Security, Other Upgrades Planned

By Alisa Hauser | June 9, 2015 5:31am | Updated on June 9, 2015 6:03am
 Police have a dedicated bike patrol beat that is monitoring the trail.
Security, Police on The Bloomingdale Trail
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CHICAGO — On its opening weekend, the much-anticipated Bloomingdale Trail was packed with Chicagoans eager to take in the sun and explore the 2.7-mile-long elevated park.

While opening weekend went off without incident, police and nearby residents are already thinking about ways to improve the park — and ways to keep it safe.

"I've only been off of [the trail] to go to the bathroom and have lunch," said one officer patrolling the trail on a bike Sunday night.

The 14-year-veteran of the Chicago Police Department didn't have time to chat, either. A trail user tapped him on the shoulder about a fight brewing near Humboldt Boulevard.

He and his partner quickly headed west to check it out.

Based on a trail user's tip, cops take off to investigate a potential fight on the trail Sunday evening.  [DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser]

That interaction with the public is exactly what Shakespeare Police District Cmdr. Marc Buslik said he wants to see.

"People are the best detractor [to curbing crime]," Buslik said Saturday while he gathered with a crew of bike patrol officers on Humboldt Boulevard.

Alisa Hauser says cameras are just part of the police department's plan:

Officers from five beats in the district will patrol the trail daily, and call boxes similar to those found on college campuses are also being installed at some point, Buslik said. The city would not say when the boxes would be added.

In addition, there are surveillance cameras at all of the trail's 12 access points, as well as cameras anywhere the trail bends enough that there would not be clear line of sight, a spokeswoman from the Trust for Public Land, the city's public private partner that is managing the project, said on Monday.

A security camera attached to a pole, where the trail "bends" near Drake Avenue.

Pete Lemke, a Humboldt Park resident who was walking along the trail just before dark on Sunday, said he was "glad to see police on the trail."

"If someone approaches, you can't cross the street to avoid them. There is no out here," Lemke said. "It's beautiful and tranquil, but this is a thoroughfare and it is still the city."

Thomas Billings, an Logan Square artist who goes by the name of Ghost Rat, was walking with Lemke.

"I would not go up on the trail alone after dark," Billings said.

If something does happen on the trail, locals will know about it.

Paul Smith, a co-founder of Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail, created a map on EveryBlock that covers the entire trail, which begins in Bucktown to the east and ends in Humboldt Park.

Smith said the impetus for creating the map, which will aggregate any news stories happening within a block or two of the trail, was initially to get out the word out about events related to the trail opening.

Smith also put a 24-hour time lapse camera at the Western Avenue bridge, which shows some folks in the trail after hours. The park, like all Chicago Park District parks, closes at 11 p.m. daily.

"I know the park is supposed to be closed after 11 p.m., but they can't control physical access with no gates or locks," Smith said.

Based on opening weekend, the trail is going to be a popular destination for those living near it. Trash cans installed at access points overflowed Sunday, and the Chicago Park District says it's paying attention.

“As with any new park or park feature, the Chicago Park District monitors park conditions and listens to community feedback in order to make any improvements that may enhance the experience of park patrons. Currently, trash cans are located along the 606 trail’s access points, but additional trash cans could be added in the future," said Jessica Maxey-Faulkner, a Park District spokeswoman.

Beth White, Midwest Region Director for the Trust for Public Land, issued the following statement on Monday.

"We learned a lot over the weekend as we opened The 606 to happy crowds. We knew it would be popular but even we were surprised by the outpouring of positive response. We’ll be learning over the next few weeks how folks use the new space, their needs, and we’ll be making some adjustments as we go, including trash cans," White said.

An overflowing trash can at Milwaukee, Leavitt along the Bloomingdale Trail. [DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser]

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