LOGAN SQUARE — Like The Bean and Sears Tower, The 606 is the most widely used name for the popular trail — but it is technically wrong.
The elevated trail is actually called The Bloomingdale Trail, at least according to the city.
On Wednesday, the Chicago Park District officially changed the trail’s name to The Bloomingdale Trail, the name city planners have used since the trail was built in 2015. (Until this week, it wasn’t technically The Bloomingdale Trail, either. The trail’s official name was Park 527.)
The move is puzzling to some locals who have been calling the trail by its unofficial name, The 606, since it opened.
“I’ve literally never heard anyone call it The Bloomingdale Trail,” said Jeff Schroeder, who lives about 10 minutes from the trail.
For many who live near the trail and use it frequently, The 606 is the only name they know.
“Don’t know anyone that refers to it otherwise,” said Brandon Martini, a Wicker Park resident.
‘It’s Incredibly Important … The Roots Of The Project Are Recognized’
When city planners debuted the elevated trail in 2015, they named the trail itself The Bloomingdale Trail and the broader trail and park system The 606.
But that distinction got lost. From the very beginning, neighbors and public officials called the trail The 606 after Chicago’s ZIP codes, most of which start with 606.
Despite the city’s best efforts to brand the trail The Bloomingdale Trail with signs and marketing materials, The 606 stuck.
Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail, the neighborhood group that oversees the trail, has been on a crusade to get locals to call the trail by its rightful name. The group’s efforts are why the Chicago Park District changed the name Wednesday. Its members submitted the proposal.
“The official name does matter,” said group President Benjamin Helphand. “It’s incredibly important to the folks who have been here a long time that the roots of the project are recognized.
“This was a dream that came from the neighborhood and was the result of more than a decade of work of volunteers and community organizations who were trying to improve the wellbeing of their communities.”
If the real name were lost, Helphand said, “all of the stories and all of the effort that went into making [the trail] — that stemmed from the community — [would] dissipate in some way.”
The name The Bloomingdale Trail dates back to the community planning stage in the early 2000s, years before the trail was actually built, Helphand said.
Community organizers drew inspiration from the Bloomingdale Line, the old freight train line on Milwaukee Road that operated on the nearby tracks before the trail was built alongside it.
Helphand said making The Bloomingdale Trail official sends an important message to the many community organizers who worked tirelessly to bring the trail to fruition.
“I have such reverence for that door-to-door community work. It was impossible for the Friends Of group to just let it go,” he said.
‘The 606 Is Easy And It’s Punchy And It’s Chicago’
Giving the trail an official name is unlikely to settle the passionate debate, based on what neighbors near the trail and on social media had to say.
Some neighbors on Twitter said they use The Bloomingdale Trail because, like Helphand, they want to honor the organizers who fought to get the trail. Others said they simply prefer it over The 606.
For some locals, battles over the name also involve long-simmering tensions over the rapidly changing character of the area. Some said The 606 is what newcomers call the trail, which has become a magnet for gentrification-fueled displacement in recent years.
Some suggested The Bloomingdale Trail is the name used by longtime residents who were around before it was built.
Still, there’s no denying The 606 reigns supreme.
On Thursday afternoon, Lauren Venell and Karen Barbé were enjoying a conversation on a bench at the trail’s Campbell Avenue entrance. When asked if they call the trail by its official name, The Bloomingdale Trail, they shook their heads and laughed.
“The 606 is easy and punchy and it’s Chicago. That’s our ZIP code,” Venell said.
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