Friends of the Major Taylor Trail Advocate for Bike Path

By Grace Kuikman

Anne Alt, President of the Friends of the Major Taylor Trail, is passionate about biking and about preserving the ridability of the bike and pedestrian trail that starts in the Dan Ryan Woods and runs to the Whistler Woods in Riverdale.

Alt has been part of the Friends of the Major Taylor Trail since she moved into Beverly/Morgan Park eleven years ago. Although they participate in rides, the group focuses on advocating for and helping to tend the trail. The Friends are volunteers who participate in organized as well as impromptu workdays that include trimming tree branches and invasive plants that obstruct the trail, picking up trash, and other maintenance tasks. “It’s physical work,” Alt said.

The Major Taylor Trail runs about seven miles along an old rail line. A portion of the trail is maintained by the Chicago Park District. Members of the Friends stay abreast of issues that affect the Trail, and contact government and park officials when advocacy is needed.

The group is open to anyone interested in helping out and participating in rides and/or workdays. New members are welcome, and help is always needed.

Like most of the Friends of the Major Taylor Trail, Alt really enjoys the varied aspects of the trail that range from wooded to urban areas, and offer some unique glimpses into nature. “You never know what you’re going to see,” Alt said. Inspired by the abundance of birds she sees when riding, Alt is interested in working with a bird enthusiast to develop a bird watching ride along the Trail. She also open to ideas for special rides. “People are welcome to make suggestions, and if they have expertise, that’s cool, too,” she said. “There are so many possibilities.”

The Friends of the Major Taylor Trail meet every other month at the Ridge Park Fieldhouse, 9625 S. Longwood Dr. The next meeting is Mon., Sept. 18, 7 p.m., and meetings are open to all interested neighbors.

The Friends participate in rides, some of them with the Major Taylor Cycling Club of Chicago. They invite area riders to join them on the Major Taylor Victory Ride on Sat., Aug. 19. The ride will cover about 50 miles, starting at the trail head in the Dan Ryan Woods and traveling to Major Taylor’s gravesite in Glenwood.

Marshall “Major” Taylor was a professional bicycle racer who set many world records in track riding and sprints. In 1899, at the world championships in Montreal, Canada, Taylor won the one-mile sprint, to become the first African American to win a world championship in cycling. Born in 1878, Taylor started his amateur cycling career while still a teen in his home town of Indianapolis, and went on to compete in the U.S., Europe and Australia, winning many races. He faced and challenged racial prejudice throughout his career. He died in Chicago in 1932, and in 1989 was inducted into the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame.

Anyone interested in learning more about Friends of the Major Taylor Trail or the bike ride can email maj.taylor.trail@gmail.com or search Friends of the Major Taylor Trail on Facebook.

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