Bronzeville Trail Task Force Founder John Adams addresses the crowd at an April 23 rally announcing the project's kickoff. Credit: Jamie Nesbitt Golden/Block Club Chicago

GRAND BOULEVARD — It was a day of hope and inspiration as neighbors gathered Saturday to kick off the Bronzeville Trail campaign, an effort to turn an old railroad into a biking and running trail.

Members of the trail’s task force were joined by Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd), Cook County Commissioner Bill Lowry and Illinois Tech Assistant Vice President Alicia Bunton at Williams-Davis Park after a brief parade.

The parade streamed down 41st Street before ending with a rally across the street from the old Kenwood Line they’ve been working to convert into the Bronzeville Trail.

The plan dovetails with the city’s larger plan to add nearly 50 miles of interconnected trails and corridors, including the Kenwood Line. It would be similar to the north side’s Bloomingdale Trail, the elevated trail of The 606.

“It feels like nine months of labor, but it was two years of labor. This is the birthday of the Bronzeville Trail,” task force founder John Adams told Block Club. “It’s going to provide an amazing economic, health and education benefits to residents of Bronzeville and beyond.”

Bronzeville Trail Task Force Chairperson Walter Freeman shares news of the $75,0000 Chicago Community Trust grant at the April 23 rally. Credit: Jamie Nesbitt Golden/Block Club Chicago

Adams credited an “amazing array of stakeholders” with moving the process forward and lending their expertise. The task force will be working closely with Illinois Tech — whose plans for a Bronzeville walking tour app are already underway — and Dawson Technical Institute, which will be heading a workforce development component.

Task force member Chris Devins will oversee public art installations connected to the project.

The all-volunteer group recently received a $75,000 grant from Chicago Community Trust to be used for predevelopment planning, which is expected to last two to three years, Adams said. During that time, the task force’s consultants will determine how the money is spent.

While the Bloomingdale Trail took a decade to finish, the task force hopes to shorten its timeline to seven or eight years, using best practices from similar projects across the country.

The Kenwood Line embankment, part of a two-mile stretch of abandoned railway to be converted into the Bronzeville Trail. Credit: Jamie Nesbitt Golden/Block Club Chicago

Events to keep the community engaged will continue in the coming months, with a ministers’ breakfast, business luncheon and “Bronzeville Trail Day” at the Bloomingdale Trail, said Adams.

By this time next year, the task force hopes to have a design ready to share with the community.

“When you compare this project to other projects that have taken 12 years, we’ve made great strides in just 24 months. Hopefully we’ll stay on that path of progress,” said Freeman.

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