Spanning 1.5 miles, the dreamed-up Englewood Nature Trail has been in the works for years, with plans for the community-oriented space to run along an old city-owned railway embankment on 59th Street. Plans have been now in motion for a while, but a recently secured $3 million in funding could push the project in a big way.
The Chicago Department of Transportation will get use the money from the Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program to transform the 1.75-mile abandoned railroad line into a 12-foot-wide, ADA-accessible, elevated, multi-use trail. The path will run behind 58th and 59th streets between Wallace and Hoyne Avenues.
It’s been a long time coming, as community organizers have been pushing for an expanded nature trail and biking paths for years. It will be an open space for the community, a place for neighbors to connect, and a natural retreat for members of the Englewood neighborhood. While this $3 million helps, the project has still not met its financial goals.
In a news release, Pritzker clarified that the Englewood Nature Trail is part of the Ilinois Transportation Enhancement Program, which was created under Pritzker’s Rebuild Illinois infrastructure plan which aims to financially support “alternative modes of transportation to preserve visual and cultural resources and improve quality of life.”
The recently awarded funding is part of an overall $127.9 million that will be distributed to 72 statewide projects, making it the largest round of funding for the Illinois program. according to the news release, more than 75 percent of this will be “allocated to projects in communities that best demonstrated a financial need.”
As for the trail, it will span 58th and 59th streets between Wallace and Hoyne Avenues. The project has been spearheaded by Anton Seals, lead steward at Grow Greater Englewood. Seals have been pushing for this trail for over a decade, with the goal of creating a safe, open space for neighbors. The large community plans to work with the city to create anti-displacement methods, in order to help grow the community, not push anyone out.
Previously, $6 million has been allocated by city funding, along with $20 million later that year. Then, this March, the city also received $407,000 in funding from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development Grant. The total cost of the project comes to $72 million, with a current total of $29.4 million acquired in federal, state, and city funding.
The trail is currently positioned next to an abandoned railroad from Norfolk Southern Railway, which was first obtained back in 2014. The railway company has been known to play a role in the tearing down of Englewood homes in the past.
Plans for the trail are hopeful to go forward with this boost, with tentative construction plans thought to start in the spring of 2026, as the CDOT aims to build a place where the Englewood community can find peace in their busy days. The creation of the trail will also provide construction jobs and residents are keeping an eye on improving the pedestrian and bicycle routes in the neighborhood.
Check back here for more information and developments on the Englewood Nature Trail.