On my local trail at Homewood Izaak Walton about an hour ago, I came upon preserve volunteers Greg B. (foreground) and John M. (background) rebuilding boardwalk, checking cross ties for level with string.
There are so many things right with this work. Before federal transportation grants fed millions of dollars into trail building in Illinois, trails—heard of the Illinois Prairie Path?—got built. Trails get built now by eagle scouts, IMBA chapters, and volunteers like John and Greg.
In the spirit of May Watts, of IMBA, of volunteers everywhere, and in the context of a broken IDNR, a halved federal program, and a state losing tourism dollars and quality of life to its neighbors, Trails for Illinois will model a new way to build trails in Shelbyville, Illinois in 2014, a model that could be deployed to small communities, rural areas, and urban centers statewide. It’s a new way built on an old-as-the-hills yearning for service and for connection.
Watch next week for the next Trail News. May your home be your trailhead.
Lots to share in Trail News—making trails count on the Illinois Prairie Path, Mid-America Trails & Greenways conference, rumors and gossip in abundance.
Supporters have been enjoying this for a month already; get your news fresh by supporting Trails for Illinois!
Hi, davery5555. Unfortunately, that trip would be high adventure, but maybe that’s what you’re after?
I just ran down current conditions for the trail: it blew up in the rain storms of April and May, and most of the damage remains. The big obstacle is a culvert collapse near Marseilles, which took out a road and a trail which makes bypassing it difficult. Repair could be complete by mid-October, but it’s hard to plan trips around “could.” Buffalo Rock to Utica is closed indefinitely by washouts, while Utica to LaSalle repairs should wrap up in the next couple of weeks.
The story of wash outs on the I&M has been told way too often the last four years or so. The quieter part of the story is that people still use it and find ways around, but no way can I recommend that, and I can’t imagine wanting to hang a planned trip on the possibility of being able to get through.
Are you on Facebook? Find the Starved Rock Cycling Association’s page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Starved-Rock-Cycling-Association/122845407820771) and post a question about I&M Canal detours. They ride tons in that area, and are likely to give you some good advice. Let them know I sent you.
The photos are from a trip I took last week to southern Illinois. I was invited down to Shawnee Community College in Pulaski County to provide some input to Pulaski County commissioners and trail advocates on extending Tunnel Hill State Trail three miles southwest from Karnak to Grand Chain (and, eventually, past Mounds City and across the levees to Cairo).
Pulaski County had received Illinois Enhancements money to build their shovel-ready project, but was counting on Norfolk Southern Railroad to donate the abandoned right-of-way as a component of Enhancements’ required 20% local match. Norfolk Southern says that’s not happening, and wants $62,000 for it.
Pulaski County wants to find a way to move forward, and asked if I’d come down along with IDNR’s Amy Madigan to talk to the commissioners and advocates about Making Trails Count in Illinois, and what the economic impact of trails could mean for Pulaski County. I love sharing Making Trails Count, and was happy to hop on a southbound Amtrak.
It’s stark how costs differ across the state: the Cal-Sag Trail in Chicago’s south suburbs will be $20-24 million for 26 miles; the 606/Bloomingdale Trail in Chicago is $90 million for 2.5 miles. Pulaski County is trying to match 20% of $515,000 to build three miles. Pocket change for NE Illinois, but a huge challenge for a county of just 6000 people.
I suggested that U.S. Congressman Bill Enyart and Senators Durbin & Kirk might be effective negotiators with Norfolk Southern, whose business like other railroads benefits from huge outlays of public money for reorganizing rail traffic in the Chicago area, and for upgrading their diesels with cleaner burning technology. My advice was to push for the donation—that’s what makes their Enhancements grant work. And also to think and speak of the extension not as a 3-mile, $515,000 trail, but as a 50-mile trail connection for Grand Chain and Pulaski County.
I stayed with Trails for Illinois supporters Jonathan and Sharon Voelz and their dog Radar in Vienna, home to the Standard Oil gas station that one day I will buy and turn into a bike shop/gelato place, leaving the glamor of trail advocacy behind. Jonathan and Sharon took me to Our Place deli/grocery store in Karnak, a favorite Tunnel Hill Trail and TransAmerica stop, and also to Giant City State Park—simply amazing.
A note about breakfast at Mary Lou’s in Carbondale: biscuits & gravy come on the side with EVERYTHING, on the house. Take the biscuits & gravy.
Last I&M Canal Trail Bike & Dine in Lockport for the season! One last opportunity to enjoy riding a historic trail, to dine & drink along the way with friends, and to help Mainstreet Lockport improve the wayfinding signs & information along its section of trail—all at once!
We received a check-in this morning from Trails for Illinois supporters Gary & Judy Wilhelm, who are mission-bound to document every Illinois trail for our trail counting partner Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s TrailLink.com.
As promised, here’s what may be the final update on our list of all the completed new trail listings we’ve done this year for TrailLink. With these completed new listings, we now have on TrailLink ALL the qualified trails I can find in the state, from Peoria south.
The trails the Wilhelms have ridden and plotted with GPS this year (Gary’s comments in itallics):
Lake of the Woods Path (Mahomet)
Hidden gem of a country trail.
Greenbelt Bikeway (Champaign)
Village of Rantoul Trail
Great new rail-trail and ride through the old Chanute AFB.
Bunn to Lost Bridge Trail
Richland Creek Bikeway Trail (Belleville) http://www.traillink.com/trail/richland-creek-bikeway-trail.aspx
McKinley Bridge Bikeway
Hesse Trail (O’Fallon)
Eagle Points Trail
Great history unfurled in my lifetime!
George Rogers Clark Discovery Trail
Excellent R-T and taste of Ohio River history.
Eldorado Bicycle and Walking Path
You’re going to love this ‘linear park’!
Equality to Glen O. Jones Lake Bike Trail
Carlyle Lake Bike Trail
You can see all the trails the Wilhelms have plotted on their TrailLink.com profile.
Photo: Chicago Tribune archive
Ten pictures from our beautiful little bike camping ride, GITy Up! 2013. More coming soon, after more sleep.
A big warm-hearted hug to Bobby & Martha Mitchell and their beautiful granddaughters and handsome grandsons, Diane Banta, Ginger Siska, Jeanne Bereza, Tony Giron & Valerie Kramer, Rebecca Dill, Mary Meade Cantrell, John Bierman, Terry Witt, Tom Naughton. Bruce Perry, John Gamble, my family Laura Devine and Violet, and the incomparable St. Charles Park District staff who all gave us at least their weekend to support this event.
To Inglenook Pantry, our caterers: wow. Please, dear reader, book them for your event, your wedding, your whatever. They have won the GITy Up! caterer contract for life.
To our sponsors REI, All Spoked Up, Prairie Path Outfitters, Whole Foods–Wheaton, Aurora Area Convention & Visitors Bureau—our riders were so well served by your contributions to GITy Up! You have our gratitude.
Back to bed for me; glad it’s over, and more a believer in Illinois trail-based tourism than ever before. Thank you, everyone.