The Daily Parker

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The 606: Two years in

Chicago Tribune "Cityscapes" reporter Blair Kamin discusses the 606 Trail, which opened two years ago today:

When The 606, which is named for Chicago's ZIP Code prefix, opened on the carefully selected day of June 6, 2015, it was almost embarrassingly bare. Trees and wooded plants had yet to grow. Sedges and prairie grasses hadn't been planted. Some spots had more pavement than plantings. "The 606: Is that all there is?" asked Crain's Chicago Business.

The picture looks very different today. Trees and shrubs are growing. Grasses are spreading. A pleasing variety of textures and colors combines with a consistent palette of soothing green. The amount of enclosure is increasing, courtesy of trembling aspens, thin oaks and smoke trees that pop up from the planter boxes on the trail's expansive Humboldt Boulevard overlook.

As good as these moments are, The 606 still lacks the overall magic we expect from the Van Valkenburgh firm, which designed Maggie Daley Park and is the landscape architect for the forthcoming Obama Presidential Center.

Some areas along the trail didn't get mesh fencing, allowing people and dogs to trample fragile grasses. Dirt patches blight the sides of the spiraling Exelon Observatory on the trail's west end. It clearly will take time for The 606 to fulfill its promise as a kind of plant gallery — a botanical array that unfolds as bikers, skateboarders, joggers and others pass by.

Nonetheless, it is already clear that The 606 is popular. It drew 1.3 million visitors last year, according to Vivian Garcia, the Chicago Park District's 606 manager. Cyclists and people on foot have managed to coexist on The 606, whose trail is just 14 feet wide. Walkers and joggers tend to stick to the blue rubberized paths on the trail's flanks.

It's also 200 meters from my office, which is fantastic.


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