Aug 17, 2022 - News

Challenges of a South Side nature trail

Map rendering of a new development
Photo: Chicago Department of Planning and Development

Last week the U.S. Department of Transportation announced a $20 million grant for a nature trail in Englewood along an old railroad corridor.

Why it matters: Like the 606 Bloomingdale Trail, the Englewood Nature Trail could rejuvenate its area with safer recreation and transportation.

But Englewood trail organizers hope to avoid one big pitfall of the 606: gentrification and displacement.

  • Federal officials specifically noted planners' work to address "potential impacts such as gentrification, displacement, and equitable employment opportunities," in their announcement.

What they're saying: "We want to create protective measures for residents to help build community ownership and a future here," Grow Greater Englewood (GGE) lead steward Anton Seals tells Axios.

  • He plans to do so with community engagement, compacts, ordinances and land trusts.

Yes, but: He stresses that Englewood — with its huge rate of vacancies — is starting with a very different real estate landscape than Bucktown and Logan Square did ahead of the 606.

Flashback: Community members started planning the Englewood project more than a decade ago.

  • But last spring it got a boost when Mayor Lori Lightfoot pledged $6 million in city money and said officials would apply for federal funding.

Zoom in: The trail is projected to run between 58th and 59th streets, stretching for 1.75 miles from Lowe (700 West) and Hoyne (2100 West) Avenues.

  • It's meant to link local urban farms and "transform a vacated rail corridor into a naturalized space for residents to enjoy and use to connect with nature," according to the GGE website.

What's more: DOT officials see it as "an alternative, safer [travel] option for residents."

  • They note that within a half mile of the trail, "there were more than 4,000 crashes between 2016 and 2020 — 11 of which were fatal."

What's next: Community members can attend the planning meeting Sept. 8 and offer feedback here.

  • Organizers aim to finish the first phase of the trail by 2027.
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