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Ken Griffin Donates $4.75M for Repairs to Chicago's Lakefront Trail

Billionaire hedge fund manager Ken Griffin is donating $4.75 million to repair portions of Chicago's Lakefront Trail damaged by weather and rising water levels as the city's iconic landmark prepares to reopen.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot was scheduled to announce the donation during a 9 a.m. news conference with Chicago Park District officials on Thursday.

The donation was initiated in April, Lightfoot's office said, and has enabled repaving of damaged parts of the pedestrian and bike paths while the trail was closed to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

The funding will also go toward fortification measures to protect the trail from future storms and stabilize sections of the shoreline, particularly on the city's South Side, the mayor's office said.

The donation marks Griffin's second multi-million dollar contribution to the Lakefront Trail, after a $12 million contribution in 2016 to construct separate paths for cyclists and pedestrians.

The announcement of the donation comes days after the city revealed that the Lakefront Trail, closed to the public since March, would reopen with some restrictions on June 22.

The trail will open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily east of Lake Shore Drive. Parkgoers, however, will be required to adhere to a "keep it moving" strategy in which walking, running, biking and rollerblading will only be permitted.

Additionally, beaches and parks east of Lake Shore Drive will continue to remain closed, the news release stated. In an effort to monitor the volume of visitors, only around half of the access points to the lakefront will be open.

The Chicago Park District will install visible signage along the trail to remind people of the "keep it moving" policy, and so-called "Social Distancing Ambassadors" will be stationed along the trail to educate the public and help manage the flow of traffic.

Lakefront amenities including outdoor, fitness equipment athletic fields and beaches will remain closed until an unspecified date. The park district also isn't permitting congregate gathering or the use of park amenities, including finesses classes, barbecues and picnicking.

“The trail is one of our city’s most treasured lakefront amenities,” Chicago Park District General Superintendent and CEO Michael Kelly said in the news release. “We are excited to share plans to reopen the trail, encourage active living and provide guidance on how people can begin resuming activities safely.”

Due to the significant lakefront storm damage and high lake levels, three sections of the lakefront trail will merge to accommodate users, city officials said. From Fullerton to North Avenue will be a shared trail. North Avenue to Ohio Street, trail users will be redirected to an on-street detour. From 43rd Street to 51st Street, users will merge onto one trail.

Chicago entered phase three of its reopening plan on June 3, allowing several small businesses to reopen with new guidelines and limitations, as well as permitting gatherings of up to 10 people. The city further lifted restrictions on Wednesday to allow bars and breweries to reopen for outdoor service only.

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