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Lakefront Trail has reopened after 24+ hour closure following blizzard

11:16 AM CST on February 17, 2021

The Lakefront Trail at Foster Avenue, as it appeared Monday night. Photo: John Greenfield

Update 2/17/21: Early this afternoon the Chicago Park District tweeted that the Lakefront Trail is open again, save for the portion between North Avenue and Ohio Street, which was already closed before the blizzard due to icy conditions.

The pedestrian path of the Lakefront Trail near Wilson Avenue late Wednesday afternoon. Photo: John Greenfield
The pedestrian path of the Lakefront Trail near Wilson Avenue late Wednesday afternoon. Photo: John Greenfield
The pedestrian path of the Lakefront Trail near Wilson Avenue late Wednesday afternoon. Photo: John Greenfield

While the city of Chicago doesn't do a great job of making sure sidewalks and on-street bikeways are cleared after snow storms, a notable exception to that rule is the Chicago Park District. The CPD, which is technically an independent agency from the city, can normally be relied on to plow its major off-street trails in a timely manner.

For example, here's what the Bloomingdale Trail looked like on Tuesday morning, just a few hours after Monday night's blizzard dumped 18 inches of snow on the city. This prompt maintenance indicates that the park district respects that The 606 as an important transportation and recreation corridor that deserves similar attention as, say, Ashland Avenue.

Photo via Michael Burton.
Photo via Michael Burton.
Photo via Michael Burton.

"Fortunately, I live close to a bike trail that is fastidiously plowed," commented Bloomingdale neighbor Michael Burton. "This morning's two-mile commute was ridiculously easy and sublime!"

It's normally the same story with Chicago's 18.5-mile Lakefront Trail, a key north-south car-free commuting route. Park district crews generally go out the morning after a storm to clear the way.

The Lakefront Trail was totally clear south of Fullerton last Saturday. Photo: John Greenfield
The Lakefront Trail was totally clear south of Fullerton last Saturday. Photo: John Greenfield
The Lakefront Trail was totally clear south of Fullerton last Saturday. Photo: John Greenfield

However, yesterday morning in the wake of the blizzard the park district announced on Twitter that its workers wouldn't immediately be plowing the shoreline path because it wasn't yet "safe for our staff to access the area." The entire trail is still technically closed today. The CPD's LFT website has no specifics on exactly why it's unsafe to plow the path.

#ChiLFTAlert: Due to current weather conditions, the entire Lakefront Trail, from Ardmore Ave. to 71st St., is closed until further notice. Our crews will be monitoring the #ChiLFT to assess when it is safe for our staff to access the area. Details at https://t.co/SWzDWbd1sj pic.twitter.com/a2XzheBKEQ

— Chicago ParkDistrict (@ChicagoParks) February 16, 2021

"Yesterday, the closures were due to drifting snow," park district spokesperson Michele Lemmons told Streetsblog this morning. "Updates for today will be posted."

However, early yesterday evening Hyde Park resident Steven Lucy tweeted that he had just been on the Lakefront Trail near Promontory Point at 55th Street and a path had been cleared. "Saw about 80 people in 20 minutes."

The Lakefront Trail near 55th Street late yesterday afternoon. Photo: Steven Lucy
The Lakefront Trail near 55th Street late yesterday afternoon. Photo: Steven Lucy
The Lakefront Trail near 55th Street late yesterday afternoon. Photo: Steven Lucy

"[It was] mostly people going for a walk, but the occasional cyclist or jogger," Lucy told Streetsblog. "A fair number of parents with kids. Both on the Promontory Point loop and on the main LFT."

Local writer Russ Klettke tweeted this morning, "I accessed Cricket Hill (Montrose Harbor) last evening on foot and the bike trail there is non-existent due to snow drifts. But the running trail is apparently clear as I saw both a biker and runner on it."

However, until we get the go-ahead from the park district, don't plan on using the Lakefront Trail as a bike commuting route. While it's a little disappointing that the path is still not fully functional more than 24 hours after the blizzard ended, let's look on the bright side and chalk this up as a rare exception to the CPD's normally excellent trail maintenance protocols.

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