What's Happening at Big Marsh... It's a new a year and Big Marsh has plenty of plans for 2018.
What's New for 2018? With the help of Friends of Big Marsh and the Chicago Park District Big Marsh is going through an abundance of changes. As the park develops we plan to have programming and family fun for all ages. We'd love to see your involvement as Big Marsh transform into something great!
Maintenance Update By Logan Behyl
The park is currently soft and soggy, too soft for even fat bike tires, the single track will be open again after a few days of consistent freezing temperatures. We have a plan for tackling getting the jump lines running for the spring so now we are just waiting for weather to cooperate.
Ecology Update! By Lauren Umek
There is a lot of activity in the natural area just north of the bike park. Over the winter months, Chicago Park District contractors removed large chunks of concrete and other debris from the creek and graded the banks of the marsh with 1 foot of clean topsoil that will then be planted with a wet meadow seed mix. This work is being funded by a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s 2017 Sustain Our Great Lakes program and is the first major step in improving 5.6 acres of native riparian habitat across 1.4 miles of creek and marsh banks and improving water flow through the marsh. Soon, we will begin placing stone for the base of a future trail throughout that 35 acre section of the park, inviting people to experience the native grasses and flowers that are establishing since restoration activities began just last winter.
Meet Stephen Bell...
As the new Center Director at Big Marsh, I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to explore the Marsh, learn about its rich history and start to get to know the people and the communities that live, work and learn here. This winter has also proven to be a surprisingly enjoyable time to get to know what types of animals live in the Marsh. Their tracks in the snow tell a story of their habits, their appetites and their social interaction. The frozen surfaces allow access to corners of the marsh that are usually inaccessible in warmer weather. On my most recent walk, in addition to lots of deer and coyote tracks, I followed the tell-tale trails of mice, shrew, rabbits, musk rat and what may have been a fox. I was excited to see several Bald Eagles that are rumored to be considering nearby Hegewisch Marsh as a nesting site.
Looking ahead to spring, we are gearing up to break ground on the new Ford Calumet Environmental Center. The center will act as an education and information hub for Big Marsh and a gateway to eco-recreation opportunities throughout the Calumet region. The center is scheduled to receive a LEED Silver rating from the U.S. Green Building Council. The building design includes a constructed wetland to filter and clean wastewater and exhibits on the natural and cultural history of the Calumet Region as well as classrooms and community meeting spaces for year-round programming. In the interim, as you wait for warmer weather and our building to open, I encourage you to get out to Big Marsh and take a winter hike or bike if conditions are favorable. Check the FOBM website for opportunities to volunteer and get involved in the rewarding remediation work that is happening across the site. I look forward to seeing you around the bike park soon!
What Made Those Tracks?
Follow Our Social Media Pages to see some of the cool animal activity at Big Marsh.
Mixer at SRAM for donors!
Friends of Big Marsh is raising funds so 2018 can be the best year yet at Big Marsh. You can donate on the website by clicking the Donate link. Anyone who donates in any amount, including our year end 2017 donations, will be invited to a mixer event, Big Marsh update, and office tour on Wednesday, February 21 at SRAM’s amazing office in the Fulton Market district. Please join Chicago Cross Cup, Chicago Cycling Club, our board members and many others in donating to Friends of Big Marsh! Save the date!
The year 2017 has been amazing for Big Marsh - races, summer series, over 1000 young people through the Chicago Park District, and birds not seen in over 30 years. But to keep the momentum going, we need your help. Please make a tax-deductible contribution here.
Friends of Big Marsh exists as the Chicago Park District's tax-exempt nonprofit partner in a public-private partnership to create a fabulous new space for environmental renewal, outdoor recreation, passive enjoyment of nature, and seeking peace in a huge concrete city. Not only is Friends raising money to help complete the next phases of construction at the park, but we are actively developing the collection of Friends who will protect and promote the space for birders, cyclists, children, naturalists, hikers, and stress escapees.
All this cannot happen without you. We need active, engaged Friends who will use the park, donate to the park, share the park and spread the news. Whether you can give $5 or $500, we need you.
Please think of Big Marsh as a special place that cannot grow and develop without your continued engagement. Please join the contingent of Friends who have made Big Marsh a giving priority in order to create something new in South Chicago. Please stand for possibility in the adaptive reuse of forgotten urban spaces, and please consider an annual contribution if you have not yet given in 2017.
What's Going on at Big Marsh! To see a place transform and flourish, is to see a place like Big Marsh. Things are looking great thus far and we hope things continue to move smoothly as we thrive to reach out goals at Big Marsh. A Big Thank You to the Chicago Park District for providing black dirt that allowed grass to really flourish during this season of rain.We received four inches of rain and while that may seem bad it actually helped the hold on alot of the riding surfaces. Lauren and Logan decided to experiment with black soil but since the results were better than expected they are going to be continuing to bring in black topsoil and utilize SCA and GreenCorp teams to help to spread soil appropriately and seed, this should make for a nice green spring.
New Trail? Get excited for a new trail build out! The new trail we have laid out will be a lot of fun and accessible for all skill levels and will have some awesome wooden features to keep things exciting and challenging. Lauren and the Chicago Park District dropped off a load of tree trunks that will be cut and integrated into the trail.
Ecology Update! Lauren is working on getting topsoil and seeds for the area around the jumps and it will be crucial to have a volunteer work day (or a few) to help spread and seed it.
A word from Jay Ready
Friends of Big Marsh has begun its 2017 individual contribution campaign. If you are a rider, volunteer, nature lover, or partner at Big Marsh, you know the value of the place and we hope you will support our efforts to increase the programming at Big Marsh and make it more accessible to the community. We are seeking donations in all amounts and will recognize all of them on Facebook and our website, but commemorative chainrings are still available for contributions of $500 or more.
You can send a check to:
Friends of Big Marsh 1000 West Fulton Market, 4th Floor Chicago, IL 60627
Big Marsh is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization and all contributions are deductible from federal income tax.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss your contribution, please don’t hesitate to contact Jay Readey at 312-404-2585 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for supporting our work with Big Marsh! Until next time, Thanks for Reading!
Now that the dust has settled, we want to extend a huge thank you to the entire Midwest cycling community for making our 2nd Annual Black Friday CX race memorable! We are humbled by, and appreciative of the support you all shared. I'm proud to announce that this year's event hosted 152 racers, raising nearly $3,000 for future Big Marsh development. AND, we delivered a FULL car-load of food items to First Baptist Church of Maple Park. Nice work Friends!
As the park grows we hope to continue to make our events and races better and better and we couldn’t do that without all the awesome people that come out to ride, and support Big Marsh. Hope to See you down at the Big Marsh!
Eco-Recreation and Bike Park Behind the Scenes at Big Marsh There's an amazing team behind the scenes at Big Marsh. It takes many different elements to run a park, and the diverse qualities and talents of each team member play a major hand in the development of this park. Below you will get to meet two of our most important team members and hear some of the things that we've been up too.
Maintenance and Ecology
By Logan Behyl, our number one maintenance guy
"The pump track has been maintenance's focus recently but thanks to the soil stabilizer we were able to put down, it's significantly better at handling tire traffic and rain. With that all wrapped up we have been working our way up the medium jump line from the bottom and doing the same thing to ensure the longevity of the work we are doing. We want to get things running super smooth and fast. Single track build-out should come along shortly. All the jump lines are dialed in and sprayed. That is if the weather keeps cooperating." By Lauren Umek, Ecologist for Chicago Park District
"We had 8 semi-loads of topsoil delivered to the jumps. CPD landscape crews, with a skid steer, tractor, and dump truck have been helping to move the soil closer to the jump lines and the Student Conservation Association Emerson had been out to help cut down whatever sparse vegetation we have out there, then spread the soil in a very thin (~2”) layer. Once the soil is spread, it will be seeded with an oats and rye cover crop and then a basic prairie mix in the fall or spring. We’re hoping that the thin layer of soil will provide enough nutrients and organic material for the seeds to germinate and ultimately establish through the clay. Getting plants established in between should compliment Logan's work on the trails and help stabilize the slopes and trail material.
Student Conservation Association (SCA) high school crew completed their citizen science work on the soils, confirming that we have some serious ecological challenges ahead. They also celebrated their “graduation” from the 6-week program by renting bikes and riding all of the features in the park. Maintenance staffers, Logan and David also brought their bikes to show them the big jumps. Although not the ideal time to grow turf, Chicago Park District Staffers, Jesse and Garret have been watering the turf panels that were hydro seeded in July and grass is slowly starting to establish. We’d like to use bio solids next year to help it along, but still need to resolve if they are appropriate/allowed at this site. Frogs are everywhere and it's awesome." Very BIG news
The Park District was awarded $621,668 from Sustain Our Great Lakes administered through National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. A total of $7.48 million was awarded to 23 projects across the Great Lakes region and Big Marsh was one of the largest single grants awarded.
Grant Project Summary:
"This project will establish 5.6 acres of healthy, native riparian habitat along 1.37 miles of creek and adjacent marsh banks, and improve water flow between these sections of the 252-acre Big Marsh Natural Area in southeast Chicago. Through debris removal, grading, seeding, and planting, Chicago Park District will remove physical impediments to functional hydrology and dramatically enhance some of the unnaturally steep and degraded riparian areas at one of the largest and most interconnected components of a once-thriving wetland complex in the Calumet region of the Lake Michigan watershed."
In Memory of Bryant Williams By Chental Handy, Project Coordinator for Friends of Big Marsh
Perhaps the saddest news I've had to report yet, is the passing of Bryant Williams. I'd like to take a moment to remember him and the beautifully woven life that he left behind. I only had a chance to meet him a few times, but because his personality was so great I would always hear amazing stories about him. To Bryant: You were a man who wore many hats; Senior Director at community exchange, a community leader for the South East side of Chicago, Chicago environmental justice activist, and A board member for Friends of Big Marsh. And even though your plate seemed full you'd never let that show, A smile is what you will forever be remembered by.
I think it's important that we live up to his memories, and live life in the ways that he did. At this tragic time our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends, and everyone who is suffering from this great loss.
This Black Friday -November 24th- you can choose to #Opt Outside with Friends of Big Marsh at our annual CycloCross Race. This race is a fundraiser with all proceeds benefiting Friends of Big Marsh for continued build out of park features.
Through Out the Day guest can experience a walking tour of the park highlighting its history, ecology, features, bike access, and discussion of future phase build out. The tour is free and likely to include a walk around the race course.
Guest who plan to race should be sure to bring a Helmet as they are required for all participants. Be prepared to race through the park on a variety of the expert-designed features! There are race categories for all skill levels (including kids and first-timers) with increased racing time and laps of an approximate 1.5 mile course based on skill level. Races are open to all ages and suitable for any type of off-road worthy bike (cyclocross, mountain, fat bike, bmx, dirt jumper, etc).
We encourage ALL guest to bring at least ONE non-perishable food item to the event. ALL Food will be Donated to a Local Neighborhood Pantry where the community can benefit from our collections.
Call-ups in order of: (1) Food Donation, (2) Order of registration (non pre-registered)
Donate a bog of non-perishable food items, get a priority starting position.
USACycling license required. One day licenses can be purchased on-site for $5
If competing in multiple categories, additional race fee $10 $5 discount for preregistering online: bikereg.com/bigmarshcross
Inspired by our friends at REI, we held our first #OptOutside @ Big Marshevent this Black Friday, November 25 – and it was a huge success! And since we couldn't have achieved it without you, we need to personally thank several groups.
THANK YOU TO OUR:
Racers – It was cold and grey but that didn’t stop you from racing a bike around our glorious new park. We’re already planning opportunities for your return!
First-Timers – Many of you chose #OptOutside @ Big Marsh as your first bike race ever – and we couldn’t be more thrilled and proud of you! You did it!
Volunteers – The 40+ of you who volunteered your time – before, during and after the event – were critical to its success. Your efforts did not go unnoticed!
Vendors – The event wizardry of TenSpeeds Production and 2WheelSports put the icing on our cake with your chip timing and registration technology. And we enjoyed the tasty treats you provided, Taco Mex and Other Brother Coffee!
Spectators – Your enthusiasm was contagious and made it a day to remember.
And a big thank you to everyone who purchased raffle tickets! The raffle was a huge hit. As you know, this event was a fundraiser with all proceeds benefitting Friends of Big Marsh for continued buildout of park features and our raffle proceeds helped to bump the profits. Additional donation optionsare available if you’d like to lessen your tax burden – visit http://bigmarsh.org/#build or contact Jay Readey for larger gifts.
The eye-catching abstract design of our Big Marsh Cycling Kits is based on the topography of Big Marsh - earth, water, industry. Jerseys and bib shorts are available for both men and women in a variety of sizes, and make excellent gifts for cycling enthusiasts. They are available for sale through TOMORROW 11/30, with delivery in mid-January. PURCHASE HERE
There were several photographers on site at #OptOutside @ Big Marsh – please give them credit if sharing their photos, and purchase a digital copy if available to make this effort worthwhile for them!