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