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Marsh of progress

Cyclists and nature lovers, rejoice! There’s an exciting new park coming to the South Side of Chicago — a world-class venue for bicycle recreation that will reclaim industrial land and return it to a natural state. The 278-acre Big Marsh park will be transformed into a bike park complete with a treetop adventure course, with opportunities for fishing, canoeing, hiking, nature-walking and bird-watching.

Located at 110th Street and Stony Island Avenue, Big Marsh is the vision for Chicago’s Park No. 564, about 20 minutes southeast of the Chicago Loop, just east of Lake Calumet. See the video preview of the park here.

With 278 acres of open space, just a few acres smaller than Chicago’s Grant Park, Big Marsh shares its past with Big Steel and the unique natural history of the Calumet region. Big Marsh creates a new legacy of outdoor recreation and open space stewardship called eco-recreation.

But today the land that will eventually become the park is dominated by a pile of slag, the stony waste matter separated from metals during the refining of steel.

Restoring the park will be the result of a unique private-public partnership that includes the City of Chicago, the Chicago Park District, SRAM, REI, the International Mountain Bicycling Association, the Chicago Area Bicycle Dealers Association, and others.

This is where Bridgeport Coffee comes into the story (at least indirectly). Because we support the natural environment of our own community in Bridgeport, we support The Wetlands Initiative which acted as a consultant to the restoration of both Big Marsh and Hegewisch Marsh. The Wetlands Initiative works with the Chicago Park District and other partners in the Millennium Reserveconsortium dedicated to restoring pockets of nature on the far south side and finding ways to link them to create a natural corridor.

Every time you buy our Bubbly Creek roast, a portion of the proceeds goes to support The Wetlands Initiative, which in turn supports restoration projects like Big Marsh or the proposed rejuvenation of Bridgeport’s own famous, or infamous, Bubbly Creek.

If you think about it, one of the two main ingredients in your cup of coffee is water. That’s why Bridgeport Coffee cares so much about water quality and the state of wetlands in our parks and throughout the Chicago region.

As the weather warms up, work on the Big Marsh park is accelerating. “There’s still lots of trucks dumping clay at the site, and real construction starts soon, so you can’t just drop in,” said Steve Buchtel, Friends of Big Marsh program coordinator. “The bike park is going to be popular. Chicago mountain bikers [go] to Georgia, or Louisville, or Colorado on weekends to ride the features Big Marsh will have.”

 

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