Urban Oases Locomotion

birds migrating at 31st beach Chicago


Locomotion or the ability to move from one place to another has been on my mind. (Warning: not to be confused with earworm Loco-motion prevalent in 1962, 1974, 1988) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HTcHbEdYvOc8

Thanks to a September tour with the group “Know Your Chicago,” we saw the innovative approaches being used in Chicago to turn decrepit, inaccessible land into urban oases for humans and birds alike.

Looking west towards future location of Ridgeway Park
Looking West – Future location of Ridgeway Park
Looking East on the 606 Trail
Looking East- 606 Trail Construction
606 Bloomingdale Trail looking East from Ridgeway
Looking East from Ridgeway on 606 Trail

After some ten years of community planning, The 606 Bloomingdale Trail, located above Bloomingdale Avenue from Ashland Avenue (1600 W) to Ridgeway (3750 W), is one such area now under construction. Although the Fall project opening was delayed due to severe winter weather conditions, when the 606 does open in the Spring of 2015, more than 200,000 plantings will be in place. The Trust for Public Land, a 501c3 group dedicated to creating and improving parks, acts as the Project Manager for the Chicago Park District and their many partners. TPL has worked to acquire funds and land as well as implement environmental studies and planning for the new park. “606” of course, is the zip code prefix for the communities that will be linked together by this “rails to trails” project.   Almost three miles of unused elevated railroad land is being transformed into a garden oasis in the city with easy access ramps every ¼ mile and six ground level parks.  Access ramps and the trail itself will all be ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible as well as conveniently located near bus lines and the Blue Line train.  Plans for the western end of the project at Ridgeway Avenue include a hill and an observatory plus a four-acre, ground-level park to be built on the former Magid Glove Factory site adjacent to the western trailhead. The McCormick Tribune YMCA, which serves the families of Logan Square with awesome programs, is planning a café addition to their building which, hopefully, will be an added inducement for the community to use the 606 Trail and make the Ridgeway Park and café a destination spot.

Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates are the New York-based landscape designers of both the 606 Trail and the Maggie Daley Park under construction at Millennium Park. Michael Van Valkenburgh is no stranger to Illinois flat lands. He earned his Master’s Degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. In addition to being an uninterrupted 2.7 mile recreation area, the designed elevations will be hilly terrain composed of micro climates that will contain vegetation that blooms at different times and that will attract various insects and birds. The 606 trail will consist of a 10’-wide concrete surface with a 2’ softer surface on either side of the concrete. Additional features will include wider areas that will contain benches, overlooks, water fountains, and art work.   The design teams have had their challenges to preserve and repurpose the existing structure and turn it into a very usable public space with a new perspective.

The bridge that previously spanned Ashland Avenue was moved to its new home spanning Western Avenue at Bloomingdale Avenue on April 19, 2014. The concrete bridge formerly in place at Western was removed March 7-9, 2014. See the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SfnhtgltYvk

Burnham Wildlife Corridor at 31st Street
Native plantings in progress at 31st Steet

Millions of birds fly over Chicago’s lake front every migrating season, and they need a place to eat and rest. The Chicago Park district has come to the rescue with the Burnham Wildlife Corridor.  Restoration of two areas of land south of McCormick Place down to the Burnham Nature Sanctuary at 47th street and east and west of south Lake Shore Drive will likely become THE lakefront destination for birds.  Invasive species such as European buckthorn and cottonwood trees were removed and replaced with native Illinois trees, shrubs, and grasses to attract the insects and provide the berries that birds eat. (The goal was 100,000 new trees and shrubs)  Just this past September**  an unknown quantity (to me) of trees were planted in one day at the Burnham Nature Sanctuary with a group of volunteers from a Bronzeville church west of the railroad tracks. Previously, in May, 2014 another group of some 750 volunteers planted approximately 25,000 trees.   Two new bridges to be constructed at 41st and 43rd streets from Bronzeville over Lake Shore drive will facilitate the use of bicycles (to replace the old rusty bridge with many stairs) and allow locals to enjoy the nearby lakeshore and bird watching. Signage, paths and lakefront improvements are continuing.  Already in existence is the McCormick Place bird sanctuary built in 2003 on the roof of the underground parking garage south of the Lakeside building.  Unfortunately many birds become disorientated and have died crashing into the lighted lakefront buildings at night.  Scientists at the Field Museum have been studying migratory birds for many years and would daily walk around McCormick Place and pick up the dead birds that had crashed into the building the night before.  The significant rise in death statistics during migratory season eventually led to the voluntary program with high-rise building managers called “Lights Out.”  From 11 p.m. until sunrise building managers dim the lights and resident homeowners in high-rises pull down their shades during the spring and fall migratory seasons (mid-March through June and late August through mid-November).  According to Mark Bouman from the Field Museum (who was the docent on our bus), the “Lights Out” initiative has saved thousands of birds each season.

Even more “locomotion” for humans on the lakeshore is occurring at Northerly Island.  Family camping in the summer with staff help setting up tents and building fires, guided nature tours, star gazing and winter activities such as snow trekking with snow shoes or cross country skies. The good news is these activities are paid for by the profit from the concerts on the northern end of the peninsula.

                              History of Northerly Island

Chicago’s famous architect and planner Daniel H. Burnham imagined Northerly Island as one of the northernmost points in a series of manmade islands stretching between Grant and Jackson Parks. His vision for this park included lagoons, harbors, beaches, recreation areas, a scenic drive and grand stretches of green space that would provide breathtaking views of the lake and city skyline. Northerly Island and Burnham Park were selected as the site of Chicago’s second World’s Fair entitled A Century of Progress, 1933-34, and by the early 1930s, Northerly Island had been increased to its present size. In 1938, the Chicago Park District removed the bridge leading to Northerly Island and built a causeway connecting the island to Burnham Park. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Northerly Island featured paths and walkways, scattered trees and grass, a parking lot and the 12th Street Beach. In 1947, a small airport known as Meigs Field opened under the Exposition Authority Act. Operations at Meigs expanded with the building of an air control tower in 1952. The 50-year lease granted by the park district for Meigs Field expired on September 30, 1996. The City, Park District, and numerous civic organizations agreed that the airport should revert to parkland. Today, Daniel Burnham’s vision is now a reality. With wild prairie grasses taking root, beautiful strolling paths, casual play areas, and a spectacular view of the City skyline, we invite you to come out and enjoy the emerging world of Northerly Island. http://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/parks/Northerly-Island/

Many thanks to Barbara Graham who opened our eyes to the wonders of Chicago via the University of Chicago fall tours known as “Know Your Chicago,” We are so thankful to be able to do the ” locomotion” in Chicago Parks.

**CORRECTION to Urban Oases Locomotion: (  https://gcoprf.org/?p=6824) I misunderstood that 100,000 trees were planted in one day in the Burnham Wildlife corridor   There have been at least two different volunteer days planting trees in the Burnham Wildlife Sanctuary/Corridor with a goal of a 100,000 trees total to be planted.  In May 2014  – 750 or more volunteers realistically planted approximately 25,0000 trees per a participant (fellow Oak Parker) that wrote to me.       In September 2014 The  University Church from Bronzeville also  planted  trees.  The quantity is unclear to me at this point.

http://www.openlands.org/burnham-wildlife-corridor-planting – September 2014