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Baha’i hopes: Advocates help win funding for study on connecting the N. Shore Channel Trail with lakefront

Filling in a 1.5-mile gap in the North Shore Channel Trail would connect it with the lakefront and other North Shore bikeways.

3:27 PM CDT on September 1, 2023

Rendering of the new 1.5 miles of the North Shore Channel Trail.

A tip of the helmet to the all the advocates, organizations, agencies, and politicians who got the wheels turning to fill a 1.5 mile gap in the North Shore Channel Trail, which would connect it with the lakefront and other North Shore bikeways.

Chicagoans can currently pick up the NSCT (not to be confused with the North Branch Trail, further west) at its southern trailhead at Lawrence Avenue and the north branch of the Chicago River. From there you can ride about seven miles north, mostly along the North Shore Channel.

The current route of the North Shore Channel Trail. Image: Google Maps

After you cross Devon Avenue into the suburbs, you ride alongside busy 5-lane McCormick Boulevard, slaloming through a charming sculpture garden. (Unfortunately crossing east-west streets on the trail along McCormick is a little sketchy due to turning drivers.) The trail currently ends at Green Bay Road and McCormick Boulevard.

"Silver Wings" by Ferdinand Rebechini, 1990, located on the southwest corner of Green Bay Road and McCormick Boulevard, the northern trailhead of the North Shore Channel Trail. Photo: Jeff Zoline

That could change, thanks to the approval of a $40,000 Invest in Cook grant for a feasibility study about completing the last mile-and-a-half from the NSCT's current northern trailhead and Lake Michigan at Gillson Park beach. That's also near the popular Sheridan Road cycling route and the lovely Baha'i House of Worship at 100 Linden Ave. Advocates say the project will also provide a safe route across Green Bay Road for users of the Green Bay Trail off-street path that runs between Wilmette and Highland Park.

Baha'i House of Worship in Wilmette. Photo: Wikipedia

According to Jeff Axelrod from Bike Wilmette, who notified Streetsblog about the news, advocates from his organization and Evanston Transit Alliance have been working on this project for over five years. The two advocacy groups also gave props to dozens of representatives and organizations who have helped pursue the grant. Axelrod said the grant application was spearheaded by the Wilmette Park District with support from the Village of Wilmette and the City of Evanston.

The Cook County grant will cover half of the cost of the feasibility study, with the two 'burbs covering the other $40K through an intergovernmental agreement. The report will determine the best off-street trail location, estimate the costs, and propose a strategy to make the project happen. Note that, assuming that the study determines that the trail extension is feasible, additional money for design and construction will need to be found.

The Shore Channel Trail in Lincolnwood. Photo: John Greenfield

In a statement, Wilmette park district director Steve Wilson said he is grateful for support for the project from local agencies and advocates and added, "We look forward to exploring a connection that will enhance the North Shore’s active transportation work."

Evanston deputy city manager Dave Stoneback stated, "Evanston is grateful to Cook County for the grant and we're looking forward to exploring the feasibility of connecting the channel trail to the lakefront."

The next step is to issue a request for proposals and select a planning firm to do the study. The advocates say community input for the project will be key.

"This project exemplifies the collaborative spirit of the community, local governments, and regional entities, all working together to enhance connectivity, promote recreation, and facilitate economic growth," said Bike Wilmette and Evanston Transit Alliance in a statement. "With the Invest in Cook grant providing a solid foundation, the North Shore Channel completion project is poised to offer a safe, scenic, and uninterrupted trail experience for residents and visitors alike."

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