Bike Park Planned for Calumet’s Big Marsh

Cyclists and nature lovers in Chicago will soon have more space to enjoy their hobbies

Deborah Bayliss | 8/6/2014, 3:40 p.m.
Cyclists and nature lovers in Chicago will soon have more space to enjoy their hobbies thanks to the city's plans ...
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, looks at a rendering for the planned Big Marsh Bike Trail. Patrick Pyszka, City of Chicago

Cyclists and nature lovers in Chicago will soon have more space to enjoy their hobbies thanks to the city's plans to transform 278 acres of old industrial property at Big Marsh, 11400 S. Stony Island Ave., the largest individual wetland in the Calumet Open Space, into an eco-friendly recreational area that includes a new bike park.

Rendering of the planned Big Marsh Bike Park and Recreation Oasis.

Rendering of the planned Big Marsh Bike Park and Recreation Oasis.

Calumet Open Face features not only the Chicago Park District’s largest landholdings, but some of its most impressive displays of biodiversity. Habitat variety spans marshes, prairies and woodlands that are host to over 200 species of birds, 20 species of fish, and rare mammals, amphibians and reptiles.

“This industrial site will soon be transformed into a unique recreational oasis that will allow families and children from neighborhoods across Chicago to bike, hike, fish, canoe and learn about nature,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “Whether it is creating an urban oasis on Northerly Island, embarking on a 22-acre conversion of a superfund site to a park at the Big Park in Little Village or adding nearly 1,000 acres of new park space in the City over the past three years, we’re building a new Chicago that stays true to our motto as a great City in a Garden.”

Construction on what will be called the Calumet Bike Park is scheduled to begin this fall.

Mayor Emanuel and Ald. John Pope and Chicago Park District General Superintendent, Michael P. Kelly, announced last week plans to create the Calumet Bike Park at Big Marsh.

Formerly the site of an industrial property, the area will be redeveloped into a open and inviting park space for Chicago and the neighboring communities to the south. Natural habitat areas will be enhanced to improve their ecological quality and function.

"This park is a wonderful opportunity to take unused property and create a destination for local residents and others to enjoy recreational opportunities including, walking, biking and fishing,” said Alderman John Pope. "This type of site would normally be found in a more rural setting, and highlights Chicago's southeast side." 

Nearly 45 acres will be developed for eco-recreation opportunities including fishing, canoeing, hiking, adventure courses and off-road biking. The eco-recreation elements will be located primarily on existing slag fields where plants have a hard time growing and successful habitat creation is unlikely. Other acreage will be reserved for nature education programming.

"The Calumet Bike Park will give families a place to be active and help preserve our natural environment," Gov. Quinn said. "This investment will repurpose a former industrial site to create a safe, inviting park where the community can come together and enjoy a healthy lifestyle."  

The bike park is designed for all ages and skill levels and will be the first of its kind in the Midwest modeled after the highly successful Valmont Bike Park in Boulder, Colorado, which opened in 2011 and attracts an average of 500 cyclists a day in the summer.

Features of the bike park will include a single track bike trail, cycle-cross course, slope-style course, pump park, dirt jump trail, dual slalom course, short-track course, gravity flow trail and a bicycle skills area.

“As Chicago’s last frontier only 30 minutes from downtown, this new park will be the perfect destination for those looking to get connected with adventure and nature recreation,” said Superintendent Kelly.

The project will be completed in phases; the first phase of construction will focus on bringing eco-recreation and habitat creation to the southern section of the property. Estimated completion is the fall of 2015. The total cost of the first phase will be $5.5 million, paid for by a mix of private, state and Park District funding. To view a video about the project, click HERE.

“The Big Marsh Bike Park is a wonderful project that transforms abandoned industrial sites and vacant properties into much needed exercise and recreational facilities for nearby communities,” said Congresswoman Kelly. “I’d like to thank Mayor Emanuel for investing in this project, which I believe will greatly enhance the quality of life for residents in the Lake Calumet area and make it a prime recreational destination for the region.”