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Park District Defends 606 Partial Closure For Fundraiser Dinner Friday

By Alisa Hauser | September 25, 2017 9:57am | Updated on September 26, 2017 9:58am

BUCKTOWN — The eastern end of the 606's Bloomingdale Trail was closed off to joggers, cyclists and anyone else who wanted to use the elevated public trail Friday night.

The reason? A $200 per seat farm-to-table fundraiser dinner with Rick Bayless on the elevated trail, which closed the public path from Wood Street to Walsh Park on the eastern end in Bucktown.

The Farm2Table dinner was part of the annual Chicago Gourmet, produced by the Illinois Restaurant Association.

Irene Tostado, a Chicago Park District spokeswoman, said that the event paid for a special use permit for use of the trail that began at 4 p.m. Friday and lasted until 11 p.m.

Proceeds from the event benefited the Chicago Parks Foundation and Chef Bayless' Frontera Farmer Foundation, according to Chicago Gourmet's website.

Tostado said that signs about the event were posted along the 606 Trail by 6 a.m. Thursday.

"In addition to social media posts, these signs alerted park patrons of the temporary trail closure between Wood St. and Walsh Park, approximately a quarter of a mile of the 2.7 mile-long park. Park users had access to 91 percent of the trail during the permitted event. The event organizer paid for all of the required permit fees. Special permit fees help fund neighborhood park improvements and programs," Tostado said.

The group paid $12,550 for the special use permit, which is nonprofit rate, Tostado said.

On Wednesday, the 606's Twitter account informed the public about the impending closure, which it stated was from 6 p.m. Friday night to Saturday.

"FYI there will be closures on the Fri 9/22 at 6 p. from to Wood St. It will reopen at 6 a.m. Sat. 9/23," the trail tweeted.

 

Sunny and balmy night for dinner on the 606. #paramountevents #chicagogourmet

A post shared by Xan Guzik (@xan_rae) on

Sara Brammeier, a cyclist, said she was inconvenienced by the abrupt closure. She lives just off the Kedzie exit in Logan Square and said she must have overlooked any closure signs when she got on the east end of the trail at Walsh Park.

"This is part of my daily bicycle commute to and from work. I was on the trail at about 4 p.m. on Friday and was told I had to get off. [I] could see they were setting up for a fancy dinner. Quite annoyed since it was 90 degrees, and I had a bike full of groceries," Brammeier posted on a Facebook page for fans of the Bloomingdale Trail.

Matt Grosspietsch, a daily bike commuter, said that the closure was announced via Facebook to begin at 6 p.m. Friday, but it was moved to 4 p.m. with "apparently no notice."

"I had to detour to the Wood Street ramp to get home. There must have been a mix-up somewhere with the closure start time," Grosspietch said.

Bayless posted about the dinner on Instagram and said it was for 150 guests.

On Monday, Bayless issued the following statement about the event.

"I know for a fact that Chicago Gourmet made every effort to limit the inconvenience — even a temporary one — for those of us who use the trail. It was an honor to have been asked to help create one of the 10 special events to celebrate 10 years of Chicago Gourmet and centuries of great Chicago architecture, including the spectacular 606," Bayless said. ​​

In a Facebook post, the Illinois Restaurant Association described the private gathering as "a stunning Farm2Table dinner."

On Monday, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Restaurant Association said that Chicago Gourmet worked with the City of Chicago and the Chicago Park District and “posted signs telling trail users the 606 was closed?”

"The team also reached out to community groups in advance to ensure awareness. It is important to note the trail wasn't interrupted — people didn't have to get off the 606 to get back on. The trail was closed for less than a half mile on the east end, from Walsh Park to the Wood Street access point. That was from about 4 p.m. until the time the trail officially closes [at 11 p.m.]. Cyclists, joggers and other trail-goers were directed by signs along Bloomingdale Avenue," the Illinois Restaurant Association said in a prepared statement. 

​The association spokeswoman added, "Anecdotally, we didn't field any complaints that night. In fact, many people stopped to take photos and said it looked great."

The total funds raised from the charity dinner are still being tallied, the spokeswoman said.