Chicago news feeds have been flooded with announcements of the 606 opening. If you’ve been living under a rock, the 606, or the Bloomingdale Trail is a nearly three mile walking and biking trail constructed along a former rail line that runs between Armitage and North Avenues from Central Park Avenue to the Chicago River.
We’re excited to check out the trail when it opens this weekend (8 am, Saturday) but since we can’t get up there yet, lets take a look at the history of other linear parks (and how spectacularly they have turned out).
While many people still think of parks as meant to preserve wilderness, urban areas benefit from preservation and green space as much as do remote ones. Just this week, a proposal was floated to turn the whole City of London into a national park.
High Line, New York
The High Line is a disused elevated-train-line-turned-park that runs through the heart of Chelsea in Manhattan. Debuted in 2009, it now has three phases open and another segment scheduled to be complete this year. The popular with New York visitors and has been credited with dramatically transforming the character of the neighborhood (although some throw accusations of eco-gentrification) and a lot of new construction including the Renzo Piano designed Whitney Museum of American Art, opened last month. As one of those happy tourists, I was very pleased by my visit to the park last winter. People strolled and sat, even on a chilly February day, and every few steps seemed to open up a different view of the city surrounding it.
Of course, I have a few photos to share:
Promenade Plantée, Paris
The idea for New York’s High Line was strongly linked to the french first foray into rails-to-urban-walking-trails, the Promenade Plantée in Paris is a 5 Km walking path along an abandoned rail line opened in 1993. That extended linear park runs though an area of Paris far from the Seine and major attractions but has become a key tourist and local site in its own right. From an article in the Boston Globe on mining Paris’ park for good transferable ideas:
“If you want to make a city interesting, save what you can of the past. A good city is a mix of memory and invention.”
Chicago’s other Linear Parks
When seeking examples of successful linear parks, we need look no further than Chicago’s city limits. Last summer’s post about the Burnham Plan, shows the roots for our city’s Parks Department (the oldest and largest in the US). That vision for Chicago, mostly executed, showed a city thoroughly connected by long narrow parks and boulevards. The most obvious is one of Chicago’s greatest features, the uninterrupted Lakefront Trail which protects 18 miles of public access to the water. The much touted Riverwalk downtown and a number of other river adjacent park spaces are also examples and we love them all. Any opportunity to give pedestrians and bikes access to range freely without cars and cross streets is a huge boon for an urban space.
The upshot: we’re thrilled to see the 606 so close to completion. Can’t wait to see what Chicago does next to extend our parks!