WICKER PARK — This weekend's snowfall blanketed The 606's Bloomingdale Trail, but the removal of the snow resulted in a significant narrowing of the elevated 2.7-mile long path because the rubberized shoulders — geared for runners — could be damaged by plows.
Late Friday, the Chicago Park District augmented its previous sparsely-worded snow policy for the elevated trail running through Wicker Park, Bucktown, Logan Square and Humboldt Park and accessible via 12 on-and-off ramps and several ground-level parks.
"The Chicago Park District will remove snow and keep the center of the trail clear in all but the heaviest snowfalls. We can’t clear the full width, in order to protect rubber running surfaces. Please keep in mind winter sports (snowshoeing, cross country skiing) are only allowed when part of official programming. That’ll help keep the trail open and safe at its slimmed-down winter width. Please steer clear of snow removal crews," officials said on Friday.
Michele Lemons, a Chicago Park District spokeswoman, said Monday that Christy Webber Landscapes, which maintains several other contracts with city parks and also was a lead contractor for The 606's landscape installation, was selected as this winter's snow removal vendor for the trail, which is 10 feet wide with 2-foot-wide rubberized shoulders for runners.
The narrowing of the path has resulted in some close calls with those traveling in opposite directions on bikes. A DNAinfo reporter biked about three-quarters of the trail on Sunday and had to pull to the side to let another cyclist safely pass and watched another oncoming cyclist slow down and stop.
On Monday, Lemons was unable to say how much snow would constitute removal in a "heaviest of snowfalls" situation.
Christy Webber said Monday that in the event of heavy snow, her team of 606 snow removal workers, made up of one plow operator and four others pushing broom-style snow blowers, would need to relocate the snow as they do at other parks.
On Saturday, Webber said her "Snow Commander" started a shift with four other workers at 3:30 a.m. but that shift was canceled because the previous evening's snow was not sticking.
"After we got the call that four inches fell in an hour, they all came back. They got there right away," Webber said.
Bucktown resident Mike Runkle, who lives along the trail, watched workers clear the snow on Saturday and walked to Aldi, 1767 N. Milwaukee Ave., by taking the trail from Wood Street on the east to Leavitt Street on the west.
"No moms with kids or dog walkers were there; it was mostly single people [walking alone]," Runkle said.
Wes Morris, a Humboldt Park resident and art professor, took his dog, Miles, out for a walk around 6:30 p.m. Sunday.
"It's part of my routine. As long as [the trail] is maintained and it looks like it is, we'll be up here," Morris said of himself and his dog, adding, "I'm pleased with it so far. The trail will probably have only hardcore people using it over the winter, not the fair weather fans."
Though there appeared to be salt sprinkled over some areas of the trail to minimize ice, especially on overpass bridges, Webber clarified that the product her crews are using looks like salt but it is an alternative product that does not hurt concrete.
"The number one criteria the Park District had was that they did not want any salt up there; they were very adamant. With this storm it worked but [the more natural product is] not good for super low temperatures," Webber said.
On Tuesday, Lemons said that traditional road salt would be too harmful for use on the trail.
"Large sections of the 606 contain newly planted landscape beds along the side of the trail. Because the trail is elevated, these planting beds are in a confined space where traditional salt could become concentrated and damage the plants," Lemons said.
How can I stay informed about The 606?
Stay abreast of what's happening by "liking" The 606's Facebook page, following The 606 on Twitter and signing up for weekly alerts at the606.org. Also, the Friends of Bloomingdale Trail has an active online Facebook community with over 3,970 members. For up-to-date information on snow removal, call 312-742-4622.
A short scene along a very desolate and icy trail on Sunday night. [DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser]
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