As Lakefront Trail Reopens, Edgewater Eyes City’s Next Phase

Chicago’s lakefront trail officially reopened Monday after the city closed it down in March in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The Chicago Park District will have so-called ambassadors along the 18-mile trail to encourage people to wear masks, practice good hand hygiene and keep moving whether on foot or bike. But the ambassadors are not out to be enforcers, said Colleen Lammel-Harmon.

“All they can do is say thank you for coming to the park. We want you hear, we want to keep you safe, we would really appreciate it if you could wear a mask,” she said.

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Interactive: More from our series, COVID-19 Across Chicago.

While visitors to the lakefront will notice those efforts, they’ll also notice something else: extremely high lake levels that have been eroding the shoreline and damaging the lakefront. The lake levels are partially cyclical, but also exacerbated by climate change. 

As Chicagoans return to the lakefront, Alliance for the Great Lakes President and CEO Joel Brammeier says it’s important to remember the lakefront is meant both as a space for recreation for humans and a habitat for fish and wildlife.

“Striking that balance is absolutely important, whether or not we’re in the middle of the COVID crisis or it’s a regular summer,” Brammeier said. “We’re glad to have the chance to have people come to the lakefront, use it in a healthy way, enjoy the outdoors, while remembering that this is a natural space and Lake Michigan of course is a living lake.”

The lakefront is just one step in Chicago’s return to a semblance of normal. 

On Friday, the city will move into the fourth phase of its reopening plan, which allows limited indoor dining and increased capacity at businesses.

Justin Doggett is a relatively new local business owner. He started Kyoto Black Coffee several years ago and was focused on wholesale and distribution. In April, he opened a coffee bar in Edgewater – and he says that timing actually was for the best.

“It helped me recoup a lot of the losses that I had incurred through my wholesale partners being closed. I lost 70% of my business just overnight when the shutdown happened, but fortunately I had this storefront open as a new sales channel and as a face to the brand, so that actually helped me, I think, stay open,” Doggett said.

Ald. Harry Osterman (48th Ward) says Edgewater residents have stepped up to support their local business community.

Video: Watch our full interview with Ald. Harry Osterman.

“Many local businesses are owned by people who live in the neighborhood, so the neighbors really rallied to support businesses and we’re really looking to add outdoor seating and follow all the health precautions and really begin to see Andersonville and the other parts of Edgewater begin to reopen and begin to thrive again,” Osterman said.

Edgewater is a diverse community with a long history of social service organizations to help meet some of the community’s needs. Long-running nonprofit Care for Real has seen a huge increase in the demand for food.

“We had so many people come to us, newly unemployed, who had never been to a food pantry before,” said Nancy Meyerson, the chair of Care for Real’s board of directors. “We registered as many new clients between March and the end of May as we did in all of 2019.”

Video: Our full interview with Nancy Meyerson.

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Community Reporting Series

“Chicago Tonight” is expanding its community reporting. We’re hitting the streets to speak with your neighbors, local businesses, agencies and leaders about COVID-19, the economy, racial justice, education and more. See where we’ve been and what we’ve learned by using the map below. Or select a community using the drop-down menu. Points in red represent our series COVID-19 Across Chicago; blue marks our series “Chicago Tonight” in Your Neighborhood.

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