Renovations to lakefront trail complete

Renovations to lakefront trail complete
Construction on the lakefront trail created a widened green park space at the lakefront as well as a separate path for walkers and bikers. (Photo by Josh Leff / The DePaulia)
Construction on the lakefront trail created a widened green park space at the lakefront as well as a separate path for walkers and bikers. (Photo by Josh Leff / The DePaulia)

The nearly completed Fullerton Revetment Project created 5.8 miles of new shoreline and a redesigned lakefront trail accessible from Fullerton Avenue. The City of Chicago, the Park District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers all funded the $31.5 million project, according to the mayor’s press office.

The trail features separate paths for walkers and bikers in an effort to reduce congestion in that area. A three-foot-wide soft-surface border lines the paved trail, providing a space for pedestrians.

The split trail is especially good for bikers.

“It’ll be nice for them to have their own trail, as to not worry about street traffic or pedestrians,” junior Kelsey Castellanos said.

A study from October 2014 found that Chicagoans prioritized the creation of separate paths for walking and biking on the Lakefront Trail, Streets Blog Chicago reported. Ready to act, the Fullerton Revetment Project started that same month.

Construction also widened a green park space at the lakefront by several hundred feet.

“With the parks and the trails, it’s hard to get a bad view of the city from the shore,” Jared Sutton, a Columbia College Chicago freshman said. “There is already so much real estate for business and industry here in Chicago that adding a little green space never hurts. The park space will be a good place to exercise and sunbathe and open up more space for people to relax, exercise, play games and escape from their busy lives.”

This project acts as the next completed step in the greater Chicago Shoreline Protection Project. The stabilized shoreline at the Fullerton Avenue Beach now uses steel and concrete revetments.

Revetments protect shoreline by absorbing the power of waves. The original shoreline protection, built of wood and stones more than 80 years ago, started collapsing in the 1950s. The new, preferred design for revetments uses vertical steel sheet piles that replace the previous wood, as well as concrete steps and promenade replacing stones.

“We’re not only protecting the shoreline and enhancing our relationship with this land, we’re also creating more and more opportunities to use the shoreline,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said.

This project not only protects Lake Shore Drive, the Lakefront Trail and the shore itself, but structures along the lakefront such as the Theater on the Lake at 2401 N. Lake Shore Drive.

Built in 1920, the theater building originally served as a recuperation ward for babies plagued with tuberculosis. Almost 30 years later, the Chicago Park District converted it into a venue for community productions. Although it has been traditionally used for summer programming, the city plans to make the Theater on the Lake a year-round destination.

Beautification of the trail will continue into the summer with landscaping.

“When the sun is out, it can be a bit taxing to walk all the way down Fullerton,” Castellanos said.

DePaul junior Kyle Oleksy said he hopes it will allow more people to visit the lakefront during the summer.

“Students need to be outdoors more. As a CDM major, I’m inside half the time anyway. But I make it a point to get out.” Olesky said.

Warmer temperatures will bring even more activities for beachgoers. Free and open to the public, people can bike, exercise, play sports and sunbathe along the shore. When the beaches reopen on May 27, people will be able to swim.

And of course it helps that “it’s such a nice spot for pictures,” Oleksy said.

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