WEST RIDGE — City officials gathered Wednesday to officially dedicate a West Ridge parking lot-turned-green space to former Ald. Bernard “Berny” Stone, calling it a “special” place that will welcome visitors to Chicago.
“All the parks in the 50th Ward are beautiful, but I feel that this one is special because it is what is seen first at the gateway to our 50th Ward, and to the wonderful city of Chicago,” said 50th Ward Ald. Debra Silverstein during the ribbon-cutting ceremony, alongside Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Park District Supt. Mike Kelly.
It was a “very exciting day” for the long-awaited project to come to fruition, Silverstein said, adding it was “wonderful for the community and has transformed an old crumbling lot into beautiful green space.”
The area, which consists of fitness stations, benches, landscaping and soon a new sculpture, now connects a walking and bike path on the North Shore channel from Lawrence Avenue in Albany Park to Green Bay Road in Evanston.
Emanuel said the park and its use as a crucial link to Chicago’s smaller waterways was a big step in the city’s larger goal of “Building on Burnham” and bolstering its parks.
“To take our river and make it part of our recreational park system, this investment, this ribbon-cutting today, is the first true installation of that effort,” the mayor said. “[It] makes us truly a two-waterfront city.”
The park is owned by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District and leased by the Park District.
Last year, the City Council approved using tax increment financing to fund a restoration of the land, which hugs the North Shore Channel between Lincoln and Kedzie avenues and Devon Avenue and McCormick Road on the border of North Park and West Ridge near suburban Lincolnwood.
The park sits just north of the Lincoln Village shopping center, where Stone had a ward office during a chunk of his 38 years serving the Far North Side. He was unseated by Silverstein in 2011 and died at the age of 87 in 2014.
Stone’s family was present at Wednesday’s ceremony, and Silverstein called the park a “fitting tribute to [Stone’s] decades of service.”