Buildings and vacant land in Bronzeville, as seen from above 40th and State streets on April 13, 2022. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

GRAND BOULEVARD — The Bronzeville Trail Task Force spent this summer raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for its plan to convert the abandoned Kenwood CTA tracks at 42nd Street and Indiana Avenue into a 2-mile park for pedestrians and bicyclists.

The team has raised $350,000 toward the effort, and organizers recently joined representatives from the city’s planning department and the Cook County Land Bank to tour Lake Park Station, which was closed when the Kenwood Line went dark more than 60 years ago.

“It’s a cave. It’s been closed off for years, and the timber is in shambles. It’s so dark you need a flashlight,” task force founder John Adams said. “But we left believing that the station could be salvaged and renovated. It could have prominent use in relation to the trail.”

The plan calls for an elevated trail that would start near 40th and Dearborn streets and go east to 41st Street and Lake Park Avenue. An access point would be a block away from the 41st Street Pedestrian Bridge, connecting it to the Lakefront Trail, organizers said.

The trail would be part of a network of almost 50 miles of interconnected trails and corridors. It would be similar to the North Side’s Bloomingdale Trail, otherwise known as “The 606.”

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 Credit: Provided
A section of the embankment of the abandoned Kenwood CTA train tracks at 40th and State streets on Apr. 13, 2022. Plans are underway to convert the tracks into 2 miles of parkway for walking, biking and jogging. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

The team has also been meeting with local clergy, hosting “friendraiser” events and visiting other cities to learn best practices. They recently returned from Detroit, where they toured the Joe Louis Greenway with representatives from Milwaukee and St. Louis. They also visited the Bloomingdale Trail as part of “Bronzeville Trail Day.”

Task Force member Chris Devins is arranging a meeting between the team and officials from Paris, a Chicago sister city and one of the most walkable metro areas in the world, later this month to discuss cultural and educational exchange around the trail, he said.

“It’s going to be really great. Paris has two trails that are very similar to ours, including La Petite Ceinture, an abandoned railway line,” Devins said.

Another major milestone for the task force has been the recent inclusion in the Illinois Institute of Technology curriculum.

In Cultural Infrastructure: Prototyping Interventions for the Future Bronzeville Trail, students across STEM disciplines explore the neighborhood culture and use what they learn to evaluate the trail’s sustainability, after which they’ll publish their findings and recommendations. Adams said the task force met with 24 students at the beginning of the semester last month.

“Different professors had been using the embankment for class studies for years, so to see it as part of the curriculum is really exciting,” said Adams.

The task force plans to end the month with a Women Leaders for the Bronzeville Trail luncheon Sept. 29, extending invitations to Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, county board President Toni Preckwinkle and Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton to speak at the event.

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