CHICAGO (CBS) — The city has announced plans to turn a nearly 300-acre former industrial site along the shore of Lake Calumet into a nature preserve and bike park.
WBBM Newsradio’s John Waelti reports the land just east of Lake Calumet already is full of cattails, cottonwoods, switchgrass, and other prairie vegetation.
“We were always thinking of this area as the perfect place. We have wildlife, we have birds, we have water that we want to see protected and maintained,” said Tom Shepherd, with the Southeast Environmental Task Force.
The 278-acre former industrial site will be maintained as a nature preserve and bicycle park inside the city limits, which Mayor Rahm Emanuel said will be one of the largest ecosystem restorations in the country.
“When this is all done, 300 acres, it will be second to none as a nature preserve; second to none in the country,” Emanuel said. “I cannot wait for the opening, because it will be actually a great way to work out stress for me, but beyond that it will be a place where communities and families can come together; whether it’s walking, fishing, bikes.”
The centerpiece of what will be known as Big Marsh Eco-Park will be a 45-acre mountain bike park; including a single-track trail, a dual slalom course, a dirt jump trail, a pump track, a cyclocross course, a short-track course, a gravity flow trail, a slope-style course, and a bicycle skills area.
“We do have a growing bike culture in the city of Chicago. Yes, we have it on our protected bike lanes, but we also want to make it not just along our lake, we want it in nature preserves just like this; a different type of biking experience,” he said.
The new park is set to open late next year.