Thank You for Attending This Years Black Friday Race!

December 04, 2017

Friends of Big Marsh would like to extend our appreciation to the community and all those who came to support this years Black Friday Race. Without the help of our volunteers, registered racers, and supporters of Big Marsh none of this would have been possible.

This years Black Friday race course was the best yet, the variety of terrain, twisty lines and some wet punchy climbs challenged everyone! 

Photo Cred: Gavin Gould 

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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!

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*Photo Credit: Hoss Fatemi*

October News Letter

December 04, 2017
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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.

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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.

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A word from Jay Ready

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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 donate on our webpage via paypal:

Or 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  Thank you for supporting our work with Big Marsh!

Until next time, Thanks for Reading!

Big Marsh August NewsLetter

November 28, 2017
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Big Marsh Park 

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

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"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

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"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.

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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

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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.

Until we meet again, Rest peacefully

Black Friday CycloCross Race Presented by Friends of Big Marsh

November 08, 2017

Friday November 24th 2017 

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).

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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:

Thanks for joining us to #OptOutside @ Big Marsh

November 29, 2016
  • Opt Outside Big Marsh Banner

Inspired by our friends at REI, we held our first #OptOutside @ Big Marsh event 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.

  • 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!
  • Sponsors – We wouldn’t have been able to offer the fantastic goody bags, race prizes and raffle prizes without the support of you, our generous and steadfast sponsors: ABUS Mobile Security, CLIF Bar, Let's Roast Cycles, REI, Tenspeed Hero, Half Acre, The Bonebell, Castelli Cycling, Velosmith, World Bicycle Relief.
  • 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.

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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 options are available if you’d like to lessen your tax burden – visit 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

  • Big Marsh Kit Fall 2016

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!

Anyone write a race report? Post them to our Facebook Event Page to share! And remember to use the hashtag #OptOutsideBigMarsh in your social media.

If you didn’t make it to #OptOutside @ Big Marsh this year, no worries – there will be additional event opportunities at Big Marsh in 2017! Keep an eye on our social media!

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Big Marsh Cycling Kits - GET SOME

November 10, 2016

You saw them at Big Marsh Bike Park Opening Day. You wanted one. And lucky for you the rumor is true: BIG MARSH CYCLING KITS are available again for a limited time!

All proceeds will benefit Friends of Big Marsh for continued buildout of park features. And purchase of a kit will also earn you a 5 second lead in the first race at the completed park: #OptOutside @ Big Marsh on Black Friday, November 25.

  • Big Marsh Kit Fall 2016

Castelli Cycling is known for their high quality products, and these attractive and figure-flattering kits are designed by well-known kit designer Mike Heenan. Jersey and bib shorts are available for both men and women in a variety of sizes, and make great gifts for cycling enthusiasts. The design is based on the topography of Big Marsh - earth, water, industry.

Order closes November 30 with delivery in mid-January. Share with your friends who love Big Marsh! #youknowyouwantone #bigmarshstyle #buildbigmarsh #optoutsidebigmarsh

Order Now

Reminder Big Marsh Opening Tomorrow!

November 05, 2016
  • Marsh

Big Marsh Bike Park will be open to the public starting at Noon, with tours and loaner bikes available until 2 p.m. After the programs, the park will remain open until dusk and then be open daily after Sunday from dawn to dusk.

Big Marsh Park is located at 11599 S. Stony Island Ave, Chicago, IL 60617.

How to get here:

  • By bike: There are two planned community bike rides to the Big Marsh Opening Day activities. People will start gathering at 9:30 and both rides will leave at 10:15 for Big Marsh.
  1. APRPPM, 10406 S Maryland Ave
  2. Ald. Garzas Office, 10500 S Ewing Ave

By shuttle: Transportation to and from the Opening will be provided for all visitors to Big Marsh. Shuttles will run from Noon – 3:00pm, with the last shuttles departing from Big Marsh at 2:30.

  1. Pick-up – 95th/ Dan Ryan, 14 W. 95th St and Calumet Park, 9801 S. Avenue G
  2. RSVP for Shuttle

By car: Please take I-94 to 103rd Street, East on 103rd to Doty Ave, turn right and then left (South) on Stony Island, proceed 1.5 miles to the Park. Parking will be available on site.
By CTA: 95th/Dan Ryan station
By train: 93rd Street Metra Electric Line via South Chicago

  • Big Marsh Transit Map

Bike Routes

Facebook Event for ride leaving A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum

Facebook Event for ride leaving 10th Ward Office

RSVP for Shuttle

Others are Talking About Big Marsh:

Epicenter: Sweet Singletrack Through The Concrete Jungle

Bike Park Opens Sunday in Southeast Chicago

Join us to #OptOutside @ BIG MARSH

November 02, 2016
  • Opt Outside Big Marsh Banner

#OptOutside this Black Friday - November 25 - by joining Friends of Big Marsh and partners for the inaugural race at the newly completed BIG MARSH BIKE PARK! This race is a fundraiser with all proceeds benefitting Friends of Big Marsh for continued buildout of park features.

Start the day by experiencing a walking tour of the park highlighting its history, ecology, features, bike access, and discussion of future phase buildout. The tour is free and likely to include a walk around the race course.

Then strap on your helmet (required for all riders) and 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).



  • #buildbigmarsh - 10 second race lead for general donation of $100 or more


Other Information:

  • Pre-registration is requested for the walking tour, and preferred for all races. Race day registration will be available.
  • Existing owners of Big Marsh cycling kits may wear them on race day for a 5 second race lead.
  • Previous individual chainring donors will receive a 20 second race lead - and special recognition at the starting line!
  • Bring cash on race day as we will be holding a fundraising raffle of high end sponsor goods, and we're arranging for onsite food vendors (will announce when confirmed).
  • All participants will receive a goody bag from our generous event sponsors. The list of businesses providing prize donations will be posted prior to the race. If you are interested in being a race sponsor, please email Thanks!

So..... will you go out with us????

Register Here

  Don't forget to:

  • Use the hashtag #OptOutsideBigMarsh in your social media

Big Marsh Park is at 11599 S. Stony Island Ave, Chicago, IL 60617

  • Directions To Big Marsh

Opening Day Is Here!

October 28, 2016
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November 6, Noon–2pm

11599 S. Stony Island Avenue, Chicago

Please join Friends of Big Marsh for the opening of Big Marsh Park, with opening activities for the general public from Noon until 2 PM - hiking, tours, and riding the bike park features.

Join us to hike and explore the new park, observe the ecology and wildlife, and ride the newly completed bike park!

Big Marsh Park is at 11599 S. Stony Island Ave, Chicago, IL 60617.

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By car: Please take I-94 to 103rd Street, East on 103rd to Doty Ave, turn right and then left (South) on Stony Island, proceed 1.5 miles to the Park. Parking will be available on site.

By bike or transit: Please contact me ( for information on how to arrive by bike or transit.

In the event of rain or other changes to this event information, I will follow up via email. Please note that some trails may be closed to bike riding and hiking as necessary due to weather conditions.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

We hope you can join us at Big Marsh on Sunday, November 6th!

Jay Readey, Interim Executive Director

Big Marsh is Almost Ready

October 07, 2016

Now, with the Park about to open, is the most important time for you to contribute to Friends of Big Marsh. We still have $30,000 to go before the end of 2016 to earn a $1 million matching grant toward the park construction costs, and we also need to raise operating funds for Friends of Big Marsh. Friends will help coordinate activities that enhance both the ecological and recreational enjoyment of Big Marsh - hikes, service days, birding groups, rides, events, parties and outreach. Friends of Big Marsh and Chicago Park District create the public-private partnership that truly elevates this special community resource.

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Please consider making a member contribution of any amount to celebrate the impending opening of the Park. Every contribution of $60 or more will receive a limited edition Big Marsh 2016 Member T-Shirt, and you will be a participant in furthering the mission of the Park and of Friends.

Please contribute at today!

Thank you,

Jay Readey

Interim Executive Director
Friends of Big Marsh
(773) 818-0260

Big Marsh Cycling Kits - Available Again

August 30, 2016

You asked - and we listened! BIG MARSH CYCLING KITS will be available for order again for a limited time starting August 30! All proceeds will benefit Friends of Big Marsh for continued buildout of park features.

Castelli Cycling is known for their high quality products, and these attractive and figure-flattering kits are designed by the highly sought-after kit designer Mike Heenan. Jersey and bib shorts are available for both men and women in a variety of sizes, and make great gifts for cycling enthusiasts.

  • Big Marsh Kit Fall 2016

Get your order in by September 18 for delivery prior to Big Marsh Grand Opening, currently targeted for November! Additional kit sales may be available after September 18 although will not be delivered prior to park grand opening.

Share with your friends who love Big Marsh!! #buildbigmarsh #shredbigmarsh

Order Now

The Transformation of Big Marsh Is Here

August 05, 2016

Dear Friends,

On a recent tour with the Chicago Park District, I was astonished to see a bike park rising out of the clay at Big Marsh.

The trail building professionals of Dirt Sculpt, responsible for the phase one bike features at the park, were in the middle of quality control checks of the entry level jump line they had just built. You and I would be so lucky to have riding jump lines as a job requirement. And we are lucky to have Dirt Sculpt building our bike park. They've built dirt event courses for Red Bull and X-Games, and bike parks around the country, and they're making great progress at Big Marsh.

  • Big Marsh Birds

Probably more remarkable to me, considering the environmental degradation that the park district began with, is the (seemingly) sudden return this spring and summer of hemi-marsh bird species. This spring, birder Sam Burckhardt observed 2 yellow-headed blackbirds on the shoreline, a species last observed at Big Marsh in 1993. Controlling the water levels and eradicating the phragmites at the park has brought back a habitable shoreline for an astonishing variety of birds. Here's a sample list of other bird observations at Big Marsh posted to Cornell University's since May:

  • Osprey
  • Great Horned Owl
  • Bald Eagle
  • Marbled Godwit
  • American Wigeon
  • Mallard
  • Blue-winged Teal
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Killdeer
  • Spotted Sandpiper
  • Solitary Sandpiper
  • Greater Yellowlegs
  • Lesser Yellowlegs
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • Herring Gull
  • Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  • Tree Swallow
  • Barn Swallow (American)
  • American Robin
  • Yellow Warbler
  • Song Sparrow
  • Scarlet Tanager
  • Red-winged Blackbird

For birds as much as any species, if you build it, they will come. What's difficult to wrap my head around is that the Chicago Park District built this out of a century's worth of environmental neglect.

Bill Kurtis observed that if the Chicago Park District and Friends of Big Marsh could successfully bring forth a park from the slag fields of the southeast side, it would show that we shouldn't write off any land, anywhere, as irredeemable. We're seeing that proof develop before our eyes. It's an exciting and rewarding time to be a Friend of Big Marsh.

Thanks for reading,

Jay Readey

Interim Executive Director
Friends of Big Marsh
(773) 818-0260

The Park is Now

June 15, 2016

Dear Friends of Big Marsh,

I hope you saw the news in the Tribune that the Chicago Park District authorized $3.5 million for construction of Phase I to commence at Big Marsh.

This means that we will have a park! There is no definitive timeline for construction, but it is likely to be completed in calendar year 2016, with a park opening late this year.

An important question is: how much of the park that we all envision will open? Here's a map of the features included in the approved $3.5 million bid (click to get the PDF with great photos of the technical features of the single track):

  • Big Marsh Phase 1 Map

The bike park features included are:

  • Bike park plaza (rideable features, donor walls)
  • Jump lines
  • Large pump track & stair run-up
  • Sand pits
  • Multi-use crushed stone trail

These features are listed as alternates - if additional funding is identified, they can be included in the Phase 1 buildout:

  • .6 mile single track on the east side
  • North side single track with technical features
  • Small pump track
  • Chunk trail (on backside of the jump line feeder hill)
  • Paved parking lot & drop off area (instead of crushed stone)
  • Big Marsh Ground Breaking

We fought hard to get the bike park plazas included in the base bid—a state grant is locked up in Illinois' budget battle that could pay for them. We anticipate/hope for a resolution but if not, the bike plaza is too important to leave out so Friends has committed to helping raise the $690,000 difference.

So YES, we are getting a park! Also YES, the park we get still has a lot depending on us, Friends of Big Marsh! As you can see on the map, there are a lot of other features left for future construction—like the the 35' dual slalom hill. The time to bring it in for Big Marsh is now!

We're doubling down on our push for Chainring Donors to put their ring on Big Marsh. We want the park to open this fall with all of the Phase 1 single track ready to ride, and ready for cyclocross racing.

The amazing, rideable bike plaza that Hitchcock Design created, using steel shipping containers repurposed as donor walls, is included in the phase 1 bid, providing plenty of room for your custom chainring to display your name at the Chicago region's only eco-recreation park.

Please contact me if you'd like to talk more about your role in supporting the park at Big Marsh. And thank you for reading!

Jay Readey

Interim Executive Director
Friends of Big Marsh
(773) 818-0260

Park Update

April 19, 2016
  • Park Update

The Chicago Park District has sent bike park plans out to bid for a spring start to construction. This is the second time that park construction opened for bidding; last fall's bid letting attempt failed to find an acceptable bid.

Since then, the Chicago Park District and the park designers from Hitchcock Design have met with last fall's bidders to find out how to make the park a more attractive project for potential construction firms.

The plans that firms are bidding on include:

  • Multi-purpose trails for biking, walking, running
  • Tot track for the youngest riders
  • Small pump track
  • Large pump track
  • Jump lines
  • Flow trail
  • Singletrack trails
  • Cyclocross course, including sand pits and stair run up
  • Natural area improvement

Last fall was a tough bid environment for all sorts of trail projects in Illinois. Construction firms have been bidding much more aggressively so far in 2016, so we're stoked! We'll update everyone when a contract is accepted. Keep rubber side down until then!

Here's Jay Readey, Our First Executive Director

April 18, 2016
  • Jay Readey

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to introduce myself as Friends of Big Marsh’s interim executive director, and to re-invite you to share in the transformation now underway on Chicago’s southeast side.

I joined Friends of Big Marsh at the end of 2015, and am thrilled to be with you during this year’s run-up to the park opening and commencement of events and activities at Big Marsh.

I have been a bike guy since I turned seven and rode endless laps around the neighborhood. I worked in a bike shop and as a bike messenger; I’ve ridden and raced mountain, cross, road and ultra distance, and have ridden bikes for touring, commuting, and utility, including transporting my son to school kindergarten through 5th grade. As a Chicago Southland resident, my commutes have criss-crossed the South Side and the Loop; my favorite route passes through Pullman just to the west of Big Marsh.

Professionally I am a lawyer and nonprofit entrepreneur, having been involved in numerous nonprofit startups. Most recently, I was Executive Director of the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law from 2010 through 2015, and I stepped away to drive investments to diverse and inclusive neighborhoods. Bringing Big Marsh to South Chicago qualifies as just such an investment.

As the park opening approaches later this year, I hope you will redouble your interest and meet me and other Friends of Big Marsh out there for an event. We need stewards, cyclists, and community leaders to be fully focused on the rich potential of Big Marsh as a resource for all of Chicago, based in the far South Side. Please don’t hesitate to contact me about ways you can plug in and develop that focus.

Thank you,

Jay Readey

Interim Executive Director
Friends of Big Marsh
(773) 818-0260

Big Marsh Cycling Kits for Sale

December 06, 2015

Friends of Big Marsh have teamed up with Castelli Cycling to produce cycling attire as a fundraiser for Phase 1 Park Buildout. The sale will run through January 15, 2016 – all proceeds will benefit Friends of Big Marsh and are eligible for the 2 to 1 match by our generous anonymous donor!

Castelli is known for their high quality products, and these attractive and figure-flattering kits are designed by the highly sought-after kit designer Mike Heenan. Jersey and bib shorts are available for both men and women in a variety of sizes, and make great gifts for cycling enthusiasts.

  • Big  Marsh  Kit

Wear your kit at the park when it opens to show your steadfast support and good taste! Order now for delivery in March 2016, mailed direct to your door from Castelli.

BONUS RAFFLE: For each purchase of a full kit the buyer will be entered into a raffle to win TWO free entries to the Pre-Grand Opening Ride with the Pros ($500 Value). Spend a day riding the park with other Big Marsh supporters days before the official grand opening. Be the first to lean into a berm, land a jump and whip through the newest singletrack on Chicago's southeast side. Stopping by throughout the day will be cycling pros from various disciplines to show off their skills, making time for photos and autographs. Food and beverage will be onsite. Winner will be announced by January 31, 2016.

Sales end Friday, January 15 – order yours now!

Order Now

Big Marsh November 2015 Update

November 30, 2015

It’s been a little more than a year since Friends of Big Marsh partnered with the Chicago Park District to promote and help raise funding to build the region’s first eco-recreation park on Chicago’s southeast side.

That year saw us formalize as a 501c3 non-profit organization, host racing and trail work events, and spread the word about the magical transformation that’s underway on the slag fields between Pullman and Hegewisch.

  • Big  Marsh  Illinois  Trail  Corps

We’ve attracted major partners in addition to SRAM who believe in the power of this massive open space project to improve communities and change lives:

  • John and Jackie Bucksbaum
  • REI
  • PeopleForBikes

More than 200 people and organizations contributed through our crowdfunding campaign to raise $30,000 towards the park.

And we’ve secured a major grant from an anonymous donor who has offered to double match every dollar we raise. This grant has contributed $660,000 towards the park so far to match the $330,000 we’ve raised since the offer, totaling nearly $1,000,000.

Here’s where we stand on funding and building the park at Big Marsh:


The Chicago Park District began major environmental work at Big Marsh this fall to establish a functioning marsh ecosystem, essential for the return of the birds, aquatic life, and other plants and animals that used to thrive there.

  • Big  Marsh  Lake 1

Tens of thousands of truckloads of EPA-tested clay and soil have been deposited at Big Marsh to prepare this dormant slag field for landscaping and safe public use, including miles of multi-use trails and Chicago’s first urban bike park.

Work to bring water service to the site is already underway. In addition, a parking lot for walk-in access on the northwest side of the property along Stony Island is also in design and expected to start construction in early Spring 2016. This $1.6M in work is funded through Federal grants and Park District funding and is in addition to the $6.6 Million we’re raising for the park development on the south end of Big Marsh.

  • Big  Marsh  Drainage

Construction bids for Phase 1, which includes a mountain bike park, multi-use trails, and parking will be solicited in January 2016 for an early spring construction start.

Park opening date—Summer/Fall 2016.

Costs & Fundraising

Total Park Cost: $30 million

Cost to open Phase 1 in 2016: $6.6 million. It breaks down like this:

  • Public Agency Contribution: $3.9 million (Chicago Park District & City of Chicago, plus state & federal grants)
  • Friends of Big Marsh Contribution: $2.7 million

Friends of Big Marsh fundraising to date: $1.59 million

The anonymous donor will continue to double match donations for the next $170,000 we raise, contributing an additional $340,000; that provides a total of $510,000 towards the park.

There is no better time to contribute to the park at Big Marsh.

The double match grant turns each dollar you contribute into $3 for the park. You don’t want to miss the chance to have your gift tripled by this match!

You also do not want to miss the opportunity to have your name permanently displayed as a supporter and contributor to this amazing reclamation of open lands for the benefit of nature and people alike.

Supporters contributing $500 or more towards the park can choose to have a metal bicycle chainring inscribed with the name of their choice and permanently installed on a dramatic donor wall in the park at Big Marsh.

  • Big  Marsh  Concept

Our goal is to recognize at least 200 donors with a chainring installation at the park. Chainrings are available in sizes of 8 inches, 12 inches, and 18 inches for gifts of $500, $1500 or $10,000 or more.

  • Big  Marsh  Chainrings 1

These chainrings will be seen by hundreds of thousands of park visitors per year, honoring and memorializing the commitment of the individuals and organizations who made this impossible transformation from slag field to healthful, beautiful, sustainable public space breathtakingly possible.

Please consider supporting the park at Big Marsh. You may contribute quickly and securely on-line at For substantial gifts or to contribute by check, please contact me directly, (773) 818-0260 or

For more information on the park at Big Marsh, and to subscribe to our mailing list, go to

Randy Neufeld, Treasurer

Friends of Big Marsh
(773) 818-0260

Chicago BMX is Ready for Big Marsh

August 14, 2015
  • Big  Marsh  Bmx

If you’ve been out and about this summer in Chicago you’ve probably noticed that bicycles are everywhere. Whether they’re just using a bike to get from point A to point B, exercising, communting, or just plain having fun, two wheels are popular in our great city.

  • Big  Marsh  Bmx  Crowd

The BMX community here has been on the rise for years but I feel like this year is definitely the best it’s been. Thanks to several big events, new parks, weekly rides or just casual everyday sessions, Chicago BMX is thriving.

I’ve seen more kids from a variety of neighborhoods getting together to enjoy BMX on any given day. The best part about all of this is that they are progressing their skills but still enjoying BMX as if they just discovered it.

  • Big  Marsh  Bmx  Pile  Bikes

Every time I see our community get together I look forward to Big Marsh even more. Afterall, the more places we have to ride, the better. The more variety of terrain we have to ride, the better. The more people we have outside doing something active, creative and fun… THE BETTER.

Keep enjoying summer everyone and hope to see you all on two wheels at Big Marsh very soon.

Brian Kachinsky

#buildbigmarsh #ineedthispark #bigmarshbmx

$1 Milion Dollar Challenge to Build Big Marsh!

August 04, 2015
  • Help  Build  Big  Marsh

A generous donor has challenged Friends of Big Marsh to raise $500,000 to build the city’s first eco-recreation park, down on the Southeast Side.

If we meet that challenge, the donor will write a $1 million dollar check for the park, TRIPLING our $500,000 to $1.5 million.

A $50 gift is multiplied to $150. A $5000 gift becomes $15,000. And we open this park in Spring 2016.

What’s the donor’s interest?

I need SOMEWHERE in Chicago where I can go with my bike and feel like I’m outside!

That’s why we’re ALL in this—Urbs in Horto, the City in the Garden; to take these 278 acres of abused land and turn it into beautiful, exciting, and sustainable open space for all of us, everyone, right here in the City of Chicago.

Learn more about the park and donate today at We believe there’s at LEAST $100,000 we can raise through this campaign—it’s a HUGE step towards our $500,000 goal, and a massive opportunity for you to help us get there.

We’ve got GREAT PERKS and a cause that’s going to do so many good things out on Chicago’s last frontier, the parks of the Calumet region.

SHARE this campaign! And Donate Today!

Crowdfunding – Contribute Something!

June 01, 2015

Contribute Something!

Friends of Big Marsh will launch an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign in a few weeks. Tell us your name and what great services/experiences/stuff you’d like to contribute as a premium for donations in the $50-$150 premium range. The value of the premium does not need to match the value of the donation!

We’re looking for premiums that appeal to all sorts of park users—cyclists of all kinds, runners, walkers, birders, nature folks. Your contribution is an in-kind donation, tax deductible to the extent of state law.

Our volunteer team is trying to limit premium distribution on our end, so if possible, please think of items that could be redeemed via a mailed or emailed certificate or coupon code. We’ll use the info below to contact you, verify the contribution and work out details.

Big Week for Big Marsh

May 22, 2015
  • Big  Marsh  Rei

Big news on Wednesday for Big Marsh: REI awarded the Friends of Big Marsh $30,000 for some of the phase 1 bike features and to develop a volunteer stewardship program for the site. That’s on top of an earlier commitment of $70,000 for Big Marsh to the Chicago Park District. Total, REI has put $100,000 into developing the park at Big Marsh.

Go tell REI thanks right now, and tag #bigmarsh!

We (Friends of Big Marsh) are committed to bring $2.5 million to the development of the park at Big Marsh. SRAM is bringing $500,000 to the campaign, REI is stepping up big—there is a lot of room for other partners! Contact Friends of Big Marsh treasurer,

[Turn on JavaScript to see the email address], if you or your organization would like to join the campaign for Big Marsh.

Big news about Big Marsh: If you haven’t seen it yet, check out Justin Breen’s two—count ’em, two!—articles on DNAInfo about the progress at Big Marsh.

And Friends’ own SRAMmie, Dan Stefiuk, represented well in the Outdoor Industry Association’s article on urban bike parks, Urban Bike Parks, Part 1: Pump, Jump and Flow.

Bonus: here’s a picture of Justin taking a picture from atop the Paxton landfill, just before the deer peeked up over the hill to check us out:

  • Justin  Big  Marsh  Photo

And then there’s the For the Love of Mud party: Awesome Big Marsh champion The Bonebell invites one and all dirtbags to party May 31 at the old Logan Theater (2646 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago) and view the acclaimed cyclocross film, For the Love of Mud. The Bonebell will donate ticket sales to Friends of Big Marsh. The Logan only seats 174—get your tickets!

  • Big  Marsh  For The  Love Of  Mud

Happy Memorial Day weekend, everyone! Get outside, tag us in your pics!

#bigmarsh #ecorecration #bigmarshisnigh #whatsoutthere

Big Ideas, Awesome Art in 25 Seconds or Less: Big Marsh Micro Summit

December 04, 2014
  • Big  Marsh  Micro  Summit

Snowball fights. Date rides. Mud wrestling.

Friends of Big Marsh brought their A-game ideas—and their sense of humor—for events as well as potential donors to the Big Marsh Fundraising Micro Summit November 6 at SRAM.

Thirty bike park fans gathered over Chipotle and Half Acre beer to learn about the fundraising needs and strategy to build the bike park at Big Marsh by Fall 2015.

The Chicago Park District will spend more than $30 million to realize the eco-recreation vision for the entire 290-acre site. The bike park costs $4 million of that. SRAM and the Friends of Big Marsh have committed to raising $2.2 million towards the park.

After a brief overview of the park’s design by Joel Baldin and Rob Reuland of Hitchcock Design Group, Dan Stefuik of SRAM and Steve Buchtel of Trails for Illinois explained that fundraising for the bike park can happen at the grass roots level through efforts like crowdsourcing and events, and at the “big ask” level which invites corporations and other donors to join SRAM as a “founders level” supporter of Big Marsh. SRAM has provided the first $500,000 towards the $2.2 million goal.

Experienced fundraisers Garth Katner of West Town Bikes and Ruth Anne Renaud of World Bicycle Relief offered brief and helpful guidance regarding the overall strategy, tactics, and the pitfalls to avoid for both approaches.

  • Big  Marsh  Wee

The night was about harvesting ideas—even the crazy ones—from the craniums of the gathered Friends. With 25 seconds to respond to each prompt from Steve Buchtel, the group scribbled furiously with markers to get their answers and art down on big sheets of butcher’s paper. A sample of the prompts include:

  • What one word describes Big Marsh to you
  • If Big Marsh were a contestant on America’s Got Talent, what talent would it demonstrate?
  • Draw yourself having fun at Big Marsh
  • Name one event you’d like to have at Big Marsh in the next year
  • Pretend you’re SRAM’s owner Stan Day, and you want to make just three calls to raise $1.7 million. Whom do you call?

The drawings are hilarious, and thankfully G-rated. You can see them at

The night ended with Friends signing up for teams to help develop a crowdfunding campaign, a strategy for inviting large donors to participate, and for events.

Do you have skills and/or ideas you’d like to contribute to Big Marsh? Sign up for a team at Have questions about the teams? Contact us at

TOMORROW: Friends of Big Marsh Meet, Greet & Tour!

September 12, 2014
  • Big Marsh Tour

September 13 • 9am–10:30am

Location: Big Marsh/Park No. 564
Directions: Stony Island Ave. between 103rd and 122nd St., southeast Chicago—get a map

Count tomorrow as Day 1 in all of our efforts to bring world-class biking and other eco-recreation opportunities to the city's southeast side. Make sure you RSVP, it's quick and painless. More the merrier, but the more we know are coming, the merrier we are.

There's a lot to this bike park we want to open in 2015, and we're going to help you get your head and arms around it tomorrow. We'll tour the site, talk to park designers about the plans, and meet others who are ready for world class cycling and outdoor recreation opportunities to begin improving lives and landscapes in the Calumet region. Bikes welcome!

RSVP to give us a heads up. Have questions? Write to, or call Steve Buchtel, Trails for Illinois, at 708-365-9365.

Friends of Big Marsh Meet, Greet & Tour!

August 27, 2014
  • Big Marsh Meet Greet

September 13 • 9am–10:30am

Location: Big Marsh/Park No. 564
Directions: Stony Island Ave. between 103rd and 122nd St., southeast Chicago—get a map

We took the photo above standing in the middle of Chicago's first eco-recreation park, an area called Big Marsh. For the longest time it was a dump—literally! Big Steel tipped over whole train cars full of slag from smelting iron here back in the day. It's a bit off the beaten path. And...are those landfills over yonder? (Yes. Yes they are.)

But you can't stand where we were standing and miss the opportunity to create something amazing for southeast Chicago, for the city, for the entire region. It's in every direction you look:

  • Over there, a BMX pro teaches bike control skills to local grade schoolers on a beginners pump track while parents sit and talk
  • Two competitive women challenge either other on a dual slalom mountain bike course
  • On a dedicated cyclocross course, a sales associate pushes the VP of marketing up the Belgian stairs, careful not to push too much
  • Past the bird watching platform, a youth corps clears phragmites before building a walking and biking trail to a planned kayak rental and put-in
  • And at water's edge, a man and his grandson just sit and fish 

We want to share Big Marsh with you, and let you experience all that's planned to open in 2015. You can tour the site, talk to park designers about the plans, and meet others who are ready for world class cycling and outdoor recreation opportunities to begin improving lives and landscapes in the Calumet region.

RSVP to give us a heads up. Have questions? Write to, or call Steve Buchtel, Trails for Illinois, at 708-365-9365.