From abandoned lot, a new park with creepy-crawly theme

Rafael Catena was taking it slow. The 11-year-old wanted to “start off with something easy” so he was fashioning a long, skinny leaf out of clay. Sophie Deth, 6, however, was an art-making machine. She had already finished a butterfly and was starting on a ladybug.

The art created by Rafael, Sophie and several dozen others will adorn one of Chicago’s newest parks.

Albany Whipple Park, previously an abandoned lot on the northwest side, is being redeveloped into an insect-themed play space that will feature a huge spider and spider web climbing structure. The insects, plants and birds fashioned from clay by Sophie, Rafael and the other volunteer artists will become part of a 30-foot-long concrete bench there.

The park will one day be an entry point to an elevated bike and walking path.

The proposed $60 million Bloomingdale Trail will run along a stretch of abandoned elevated railroad tracks through Wicker Park, Humboldt Park, Logan Square and Bucktown from Ashland Avenue west to Ridgeway Avenue, just north of North Avenue.

No one knows when the nearly three-mile-long path will open. Plans call for it to be developed in pieces and the entire project could take 10 years or more.

But once it’s open, proponents say the elevated Bloomingdale Trail will allow families to take long bike rides in the city without worrying about the kids getting too close to cars and become a place where families can rise above the bustle of the city to take a Sunday afternoon stroll. It also will be a safe way for kids to walk to school.

Along the trail, organizers envision a series of parks and greenspaces, including Albany Whipple Park, that will serve as play spaces and access points to the trail, which is, on average, about 20 feet above street level.

The park is an important neighborhood asset because 4,300 children under the age of 10 live within walking distance, says Beth White, executive director of the Trust for Public Land, one of the partners on the project.

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