Jens Jensen Award
Chicago Park District
Located just 20 minutes southeast of downtown Chicago, an existing 278-acre brownfield and natural area was acquired by the Chicago Park District (CPD) in 2011 with a vision of developing a public park that promotes various eco-recreation activities such as a bike park, treetop adventure course, hiking, trails, and bird watching. Looking to provide this new type of recreation, CPD engaged Hitchcock Design Group and a multi-disciplinary team which included experts in environmental engineering, mountain biking, and other disciplines to develop the site master plan, prepare construction documents, and oversee construction of the initial phases. The objectives of the plan included: preserving and enhancing the site’s natural features, eco-recreation activities, creating a regional bike park, and incorporating design elements that highlight the industrial heritage of the area. Since the site had been a popular dumping ground for the steel industry and others, much of it was highly contaminated, presenting significant design challenges.
The master plan quickly came to fruition. The initial phase included capping the site and shaping the bike park with thousands of yards of excess clay that was brought to the site. The next phases included new utility service and building the 50-acre bike park featuring a cyclo-cross course, pump park, single track trails with elements, bike park plaza, a series of slopestyle lines, signage, entry drive, parking lot, and overlooks. Many of the materials used for construction were reclaimed and locally sourced to enhance the site’s features while also promoting the site’s historical and industrial character. Since opening in November 2016, the park has had a transformative impact on the community by creating jobs, increasing patronage to the area, providing opportunity to interact with nature, and giving exposure to a new sport.
A variety of programs such as bird walks, night hikes, and nature learning have been offered as well as competitive bike races, with a goal to host the National Cyclo-Cross championships. Through extensive planning, investment, and stakeholder input from private partners, Big Marsh is now a safe, open, and inviting park space for Chicago, the neighboring communities, and the region.
Project Team: Fujikawa Johnson Gobel Architects; Tetra Tech; Primera Engineers; McCluskey Engineering; All-Bry Construction Company; Friedler Construction Company; International Mountain Biking Assn.; Cardosi Kiper Design Group; Environmental Design International