People flock to the reopened Bloomingdale while maintaining social distance 

Photo: Ariel Parrella-Aureli
Photo: Ariel Parrella-Aureli

Chicagoans returned to the Bloomingdale Trail, aka The 606, Monday, happy to see it open again after a nearly three-month closure. (The Lakefront Trail also reopened today.) Runners, walkers, cyclists, and families with children and dogs took to the trail. Some were wearing masks and some weren’t, but the majority of people respected the new path rules, which include staying six feet away from others if possible, not congregating or hanging out along the trail, and wearing a mask or face covering. The trail is only open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. and city officials previously said that some access points would be closed, but they all appeared open. 

As on the lakefront, the city opened the Bloomingdale for transportation and recreation, but people are required to “Keep It Moving” for exercise, rather than using the path for stationary activities. The city previously announced that Social Distance Ambassadors would be at the entrances and on the trail to do outreach about the new restrictions, but there were none to be seen on The 606 today.

“There won’t be SDAs on the Bloomingdale Trail at all open hours,” Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail president Ben Helphand explained. “Rather just during peak hours. The SDAs are only there as a reminder along with the signs. But nothing will take the place of every person doing their part to keep the trail safe.”

I asked a few trail users how they felt being able to use the trail legally. (Recently there have been plenty of people using the trail before the city officially reopened it. Michelle Salimbene, who lives close to the trail entrance at Kimball and Bloomingdale, said she didn’t wear a mask to the trail because she was unaware one was required until she got to the entrance and saw the signs. She said next time she uses the trail, she will make sure to bring a mask. She said the social distancing rules are good safe precautions, and that she felt safe using the trail, adding that she plans to work out on it a few times a week. 

“I am happy it’s finally open ‘cause the weather is nice and I have been wanting to get outside,” Salimbene said. “It’s a nice, beautiful trail to walk or run on.” 

Signs with the new rules. Photo: Ariel Parella-Aureli
Signs with the new rules. Photo: Ariel Parrella-Aureli

Rogers Park resident Giulia Tesi, an au pair from Italy, said she thinks the city may have reopened the trail may prematurely, but she took the children she nannies on the path anyway so they could enjoy a new outdoor space. Tesi, who has lived in the city for a year, had only used the trail once, but said she will come back more often with the kids, who like the path because they can skate and scoot around. “It’s nice with the kids to do something else outside that’s not going to the woods or forest preserves.”

Tesi added that her charges dislike wearing masks. As soon as she and the children exited at the Whipple entrance, she took one of the boys’ mask off ,but kept hers on.

Greg Fitzsimmons, who wore a mask and was walking the trail with his dog, said it felt interesting to be back on the path after almost three months. But he added says that he saw people using the Bloomingdale when it was closed, so it being officially open again doesn’t seem that different. 

Fitzsimmons, a 20-year Logan Square resident, said people using the trail while it was closed reminded him what the old elevated railroad right of way was like before it was converted to The 606, and people would get up there illegally. “[There was] probably more partying going up on here, though,” he said with a laugh. 

Fitzsimmons said last summer, he and his dog didn’t use the trail because it was so crowded, but for now they keep using as long as it seems safe to do so. I encountered him just west of Humboldt Boulevard, and he noted that the trail is busier east of Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park-Bucktown.

The new sculpture at the Damen plaza. Photo: Ariel Parella-Aureli
The new sculpture at the Damen plaza. Photo: Ariel Parrella-Aureli

Although a few people congregated on the side at a few points, using the trail felt just like old times, except for increased signs in English and Spanish to remind folks to wear masks and keep moving. Perhaps the only difference were the overgrown plants and trees, which had run wild during the quarantine, but landscape workers were on the scene tending to the bushes and flowers. The plaza at Damen was also closed to the public, but intriguingly, a new sculpture has been installed that resembles a telescope.

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