The much-anticipated 606 opens Saturday in Chicago

More than a decade in the making, The 606 park and trail system will officially open this weekend with two days of celebrations complete with community processions, a street festival and art installation.

This weekend’s celebration

Opening weekend celebrations will take place at various points throughout the system on Saturday and conclude on Sunday with a pancake breakfast from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Ridgeway Trailhead (1821 N. Ridgeway Ave., Chicago). Event highlights include ceremonial ribbon cuttings at each access ramp, temporary art installations, community processions, activities at the street level parks and The Illumination Hour as dusk.

Humboldt Park will host a day-long street festival that two music stages, beer and food vendors, arts and crafts and more.

For more information, visit the606.org.

The 606 system encompasses The Bloomingdale Trail as well as several access parks: Walsh Park, Churchill Field, Park 567 at Milwaukee/Leavitt and Julia de Burgos. It runs along Bloomingdale Avenue (1800 North) from Ashland Avenue (1600 West) on the east to Ridgeway Avenue (3750 West) on the west side.

The centerpiece of this new park system is The Bloomingdale Trail, an elevated 2.7-mile, multi-use recreational space.

The 606 links four historic Chicago communities (Wicker Park, Bucktown, Logan Square and Humboldt Park) and six city parks. This project is named for the three numbers that begin all Chicago zip codes, a nod to the hope that this park system will serve as a community connector. The 606 will be a recreational resource to more than 80,000 residents (20,000 of whom are children) who are within 10 minutes walking distance from various access points throughout the park system.

The city of Chicago, Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail, Chicago Park District and The Trust for Public Land have joined forced to convert abandoned railroad space along the once bustling Bloomingdale Line into much-needed community green space for residents and visitors. The 606 project is part of an effort by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to create 800 new parks, recreation areas and green spaces throughout Chicago over the next five years.

The Bloomingdale Trail takes its place in history alongside the highly touted High Line Park (thehighline.org) in New York City as one of few examples of elevated public parks repurposed from abandoned or unused former railroads. It brings together arts, history, design, trails for bikers, runners, and walkers, event spaces, alternative transportation avenues, and green, open space.

“The 606 will be a wonderful resource for families with small children. This new community space will bring many families together and provide a safe place for kids to stay active, whether on the trail or in the ground-level parks. Imagine being able to learn to ride a bike for almost three miles without having to watch for vehicular traffic,” Jamie R. Simone, program director, Urban Parks Program at the Trust for Public Land in Chicago.

After following the planning stages and watching construction on the trail since the August 2013 groundbreaking, local residents are eager to use the trail.

“We can’t wait for this special urban oasis. It is going to be such a great place to go for family walks and bike rides and perhaps even a quiet place for me to go and read a book alone one day. I am looking forward to seeing our neighborhood from above — amazing homes, beautiful backyards, parks full of families and dogs,” says resident Sarah McNamara Zweidinger.

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