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New Parkland, Trail Along Lakefront Gives Chicagoans 'Room To Breathe'

By Mina Bloom | March 23, 2016 3:29pm

LINCOLN PARK — When the weather warms up, Chicagoans will be able to enjoy nearly six acres of green space where Lake Michigan used to be at Fullerton Avenue, as well as a new split lakefront trail.

To mark the completion of the project, which was 15 years in the making, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation Rebekah Scheinfeld, Ald. Michele Smith (43rd), Chicago Park District Superintendent Michael Kelly and representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers convened for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Wednesday afternoon. 

The ceremony was held on parkland that used to be Lake Michigan. The $31.5 million Fullerton Revetment Project added 5.8 acres of green space along the lakefront at Fullerton Avenue as part of a larger effort to reclaim miles of shoreline. 

Durbin recalled when huge blocks of stone from the shoreline were crumbling and falling into the lake about 15 years ago when the project was first introduced. Now, there is a nearly six-acre park that juts out into the lake and a 1,700-foot revetment, which protects against erosion from the waves and flood damage.

"We're not only protecting the shoreline and enhancing our relationship with this land, we're also creating more and more opportunities to use the shoreline," Durbin said.

The shoreline at Fullerton Avenue before and after the Revetment Project. [Courtesy/City of Chicago]

Officials also celebrated the new portion of lakefront trail that separates bikers from pedestrians to ease congestion — something Chicagoans will see a lot more of in the coming months.

As part of Emanuel's "comprehensive vision" for the city's parks and recreational areas, he announced that the city will create split paths in other "bottleneck areas" along the lakefront trail.

For years, the waves would crash over the trail making it icy and unusable at times, according to Smith, whose 43rd Ward includes the project. That, combined with "daily conflicts" among pedestrians, bikers and joggers, made the area along the lakefront less than ideal.

"Now we all have room to breathe, room to exercise and enjoy ourselves," Smith said.

The last step of the project is to revitalize the Theater on the Lake, 2401 N. Lake Shore Dr., which city officials envision as a year-round cultural staple once the transformation is complete. 

The city is currently reviewing developers' proposals, and work is expected to begin later this year.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, left, and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin at the new park at Fullerton and the lakefront. (DNAinfo/Mina Bloom)

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