In the last twelve years, we have walked down this abandoned trail track virtually every week. When we first moved int our house near the corner of Bryn Mawr and Kostner, there was an occasional rail maintenance car that went along the track. For many years, there has been nothing. We, and many of our neighbors use the right of way for walking, jogging, skiing, and as an access route to the adjacent LaBagh Woods Forest Preserve and Chicago River.
I have conducted nature walks with my kids along this track, spying on wildlife large and small, and picking out the native plants from the invasives.
Deer like to hang out in the clearing in the woods visible from the train track.
We have found praying mantises and their coccoons along the tracks.
Goldenrods, milkweed and native asters grow abundantly here, along with attractive but terribly invasive teasels.
A dilapidated rail bridge offers glimpses of the Chicago River.
This quiet and somewhat forgotten corridor is hardly a place of pristine and undisturbed beauty. It's strewn with broken glass, beer cans, discarded car tires and other debris that people frequently leave in places that no one seems to own. But with a little work, this route would make one heck of a bike path.
Imagine our surprise, when one day we came home to the sound of heavy machinery working, accompanied by loud metallic clanking. We went out to the track to see what was going on, and discovered that the track was being ripped out. The workmen said something about rails-to-trails, but were unable to provide any more information. They were simply hired by Union Pacific to rip out the track.
A call to alderman Margaret Laurino's office also produced no immediate insights. The person we spoke with was unaware of any plans for the railway corridor. However, she took down the information, and the next day we received a call from a representative from the Pulaski Industrial Corridor and explained that Union Pacific has lease the land it owns to be converted to a recreational trail.
I sent an email to Randy Neufeld of Active Transportation Alliance asking if he knew what was being planned. He wasn't sure, but forwarded my email to Keith Privett at the City of Chicago. Usually, bike projects create a buzz in the Chicago cycling community and among the neighbors. The proposed Bloomingdale Trail in Bucktown even has its own website, and last year, a short, one mile section of trail along the old Valley Line Rail was inaugurated with great fanfare. So, although what the lady from the Industrial Corridor said sounded really good, we were skeptical.
However, after a couple of days Keith Privett sent an email back, confirming the plans. He stated that a trail is being planned for the Weber Spur, which will run through Lincolnwood from approximately Touhy Avenue south toward Elston. He explained that Ald. Laurino herself is familiar with, and has long supported the trail project, but her office may not have known that the Union Pacific crew would be out there removing track metal already.
This is approximately where the new bike trail would be. It would give southbound suburban and northwest side cyclists access to downtown via the Elston bike lane, and northbound riders from the city access to the Skokie Northshore Sculpture Park trail.
Exciting stuff. Why aren't more people talking about it?