A South Side nonprofit is raising money to build eight mountain bike trails in Big Marsh Park so Chicagoans can learn how to tackle mountain biking without leaving the city.
The new trails, totaling over a mile in length, will include ramps, sharp turns, jumps and hills, said Paul Fitzgerald, executive director of Friends of Big Marsh. There will also be pedestrian-friendly parts to the trail.
“We don’t have an opportunity in Chicago for mountain biking, which is a really fast-growing part of the sport,” Fitzgerald said. “I think that it’s important that young people have a lot of opportunities to test their skills and their comfort level with a variety of sports.”
Construction could begin this spring and be completed in 2025, Fitzgerald said.
Big Marsh Park, 11555 S. Stony Island Ave. in South Deering, was the “first purpose-built bike park” when in Chicago, Fitzgerald said. A former waste site for steel production, the park opened in 2016. The nearly 300-acre park has single track biking trails, a pump track, a street-style plaza for skaters and bikers, and jump lines.
Friends of Big Marsh helped design the park.
Half of the new trails will feature a red clay material, sourced from Alabama, while the other half will be an asphalt, all-weather material, he said. They will be placed on a 30-foot-tall hill, known in the park as “Big Hill.”
The park also features the Ford Calumet Environmental Center with nature-based educational programming, spaces for nature walking and bird watching, a picnic and grilling area.
“The park is both a place for active and passive recreation,” said Chicago Park District spokesperson Irene Tostado.
The Chicago Park District said about 19,000 vehicles entered the park in 2022, with 21,000 in 2023, though they didn’t have numbers for how many people attended. As the park continues to expand, they expect this number to continue to grow, Tostado said in an email.
The new bike trails will be “a step-up” for experienced bicyclists and “provide vertical elements unique to this space for an amped experience,” she said.
Friends of Big Marsh has raised about $360,000 of the $1.5 million needed for the new trails. “The project will be completed in phases, if necessary,” Fitzgerald said, if the full amount isn’t raised by the time construction begins.