CHICAGO (CBS) — It is described as a COVID oasis during the pandemic. Big Marsh Park in the South Deering neighborhood has safely hosted families, and on Saturday it unveiled a one-of-a-kind addition.
CBS 2’s Jeremy Ross reports how it’s providing a safe and equitable environment.
“Nature has had an opportunity to actually go a little bit wild here,” said Stephen Bell, center director for Big Marsh Park.
“Enjoy the environment, get some fresh air,” Marlena Samuel said. “It’s a hidden gem.”
“We have lots and lots of birds,” Bell said. “Now we have bikers.”
“This is like a destination spot, I would say, yeah,” said cyclist Derek McMullen. “Huge for the bike enthusiast.”
It was the grand opening for a brand new pump track at Big Marsh Park. The track played host Saturday to the community, including families like Samuel’s.
The winding, rolling, twisting, tracks cover about 32,000 square feet.
The Friends of Big Marsh, a public-private partnership, raised $700,000 over the course of about a year and a half. The group said it is critical to have equitable park facilities, and the new pump track helps to do that, two tires at a time.
“This kind of stuff for the South Side is huge for the community,” McMullen said.
“And for the urban kids; So it’s a good thing, and something positive,” Samuel said.
“Southeast Side communities, in a lot of ways, gotten the short end of the stick,” Bell said.
Bell said the construction took about three months, and the pump track is helping to draw more people to the park.
Built on the site of what was once an industrial dumping ground, it’s been cleaned up with a community’s sweat equity translating into real recreational sweat for riders like McMullen.
“It is quite the workout,” he said.
“Good exercise, and keep you in shape, and get rid of those COVID pounds,” Samuel said.
“I would say vital to the many people that have used it for the past six, seven, eight months of the pandemic,” McMullen said.
“Parks were closed along the lakefront. We would have families come through and use the site, because there’s so much open space here,” Bell said.
There was no ribbon-cutting or formal ceremony to celebrate the opening of the new track. Friends of Big Marsh wanted to avoid unnecessary gatherings in the age of COVID-19.
The new track is for non-motorized equipment. COVID safety measures like social distancing are required. Visitors are also asked to wear masks, and – if they’re using the pump track – a helmet.