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Bronzeville, Near South Side

Bronzeville Trail, A 606-Style Bike And Pedestrian Path For South Side, Finally Moving Forward

The elevated, 2-mile biking and hiking trail would start near 40th and Dearborn streets and go east to 41st Street and Lake Park Avenue. An event introducing the project to the public is slated for April 23.

The embankment of the old Kenwood CTA line, where part of the new Bronzeville walking, cycling and jogging tail will be built.
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OAKLAND — Bronzeville is getting a trail of its own.

Plans are underway to convert the abandoned Kenwood CTA train tracks at 42nd Street and Indiana Avenue into two miles of parkway for walking, biking and jogging, according to a press release from the Bronzeville Trail Task Force.

Plans call for an elevated trail that would start near 40th and Dearborn streets to the west, going two miles east to 41st Street and Lake Park Avenue. An access point would be a block away from the 41st St. Pedestrian Bridge, connecting it to the Lakefront Trail, organizers said.

The announcement coincides with the city’s recent announcement to add 48 miles of trails and corridors, which includes the former Kenwood “L” line. It would be modeled after The Bloomingdale Trail, which opened in 2015.

“The construction of a bike and walking trail on the abandoned Kenwood Line is
something the underserved South Side deserves,” John Adams, Bronzeville Trail
Task Force Founder, said in a statement. “This project has been attempted and rebuffed since 2005 and has been met with indifference for years. Much of Bronzeville’s history is associated with the Bronzeville trail itself, the neighboring property and the role those areas played in the daily lives of Bronzeville residents.”

The task force is hosting a “Celebrate Trails Day” event April 23, which will serve as the project’s official launch. A parade will kick off at 12:30 p.m. from 41st Street and Drexel Blvd., with a press conference and rally scheduled afterward.

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A map of the Bronzeville Trail, a 2-mile walking, cycling and jogging path planned between 40th Street and Dearborn to 41st Street and Lake Park Avenue

The Kenwood Line derives from a network of rail tracks built to serve the bustling Union Stock Yards, according to Chicago “L”.org.

In the late 1800s, the Union Stock Yards and Transit Company built tracks that ran parallel to 40th Street between the yards to 43rd Street and Oakenwald Avenue. Those tracks mostly were meant for freight trains but passengers began using them as early as the 1880s.

The Kenwood Line was absorbed into the “L” system in the early 1900s, and primarily built on a solid-fill embankment, except for short sections of steel elevated structure at the west end. Even the station houses were built into the embankment. It opened in 1907.

The Indiana stop became a key juncture. The Kenwood line ran from Indiana east to 42nd Place. At Indiana, riders could connect to the South Side Elevated (what is the current Green Line) which ran north-south, or to the Stock Yards line, which opened in 1908 and headed west, looped around the “Packingtown” section of the yards.

The Kenwood and Stock Yards lines were shut down in late 1957 following a protracted rent dispute, increasing expenses and dwindling riderships as the yards declined. The Kenwood Line was the last elevated line to use wooden cars.

Sections of the old rail line between Drexel Boulevard and Cottage Grove Avenue were torn down for residential development, but most of the embankment is still intact, organizers said.

The task force, which started in 2020 to make the trail a reality, is launching an “an ambitious fund-raising goal” to raise the millions needed to complete the trail, and plans to lobby for funding from the public and private sector, organizer said. It’s not clear how much the project will cost or how long it would take to complete.

“This is our history,” Adams said. “The Kenwood ‘L’ was more than just a rail line. It
represented cultural and social progress and was a part of the daily lives of Bronzeville
residents for almost a century. That history deserves to be preserved and celebrated.”

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