Hi Steve, I'm planning a bike trip on the I&M Canal Trail in October. What is the status of the trail between Buffalo Rock State Park and Utica? IDNR has no current information on their site and a search only revealed an article about the flooding in the area this past April. Thanks!
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.
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):
Submitted by Aurora Area Convention & Visitors Bureau:
More great lodging specials for GITy Up! from the Aurora Area. Please let us assist you in making this a great getaway. E-mail email@example.com or call us at 630.256.3190.
Staybridge Suites - Minutes from the start of the Aurora/North Aurora/Batavia spur. Just ask for the Pedal & Paddle rate of $85 for a single or $95 for a double room.
Baymont Inn in North Aurora welcomes you! Practically next door to the start. This is a super special rate at $69.99+tax per night for basic (1 king bed or 2 queen beds).
Don’t forget to spend extra time paddling the Fox River, swimming at Quarry Hall Beach, enjoy Hollywood Casino Aurora, see the Idina Menzel concert at RiverEdge Park or… oh, too much to list. Check out www.EnjoyAurora.com. Sooooo much to enjoy.
One hundred miles of pipes the size of the gateway above move storm water underneath Cook County, and their capacity was certainly tested two weeks ago. The water they carry has to go somewhere, and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago has targeted McCook Reservoir (map) as critical storage for the system when its expansion is complete.
The overburden from that expansion—1.8 million cubic yards of brown earth that’s scraped off the top of, in this case, limestone to be mined—will be deposited on the Centennial Trail, near Route 83 in Lemont. The MWRD wants to rebuild the trail when they’re finished in 2-3 years, and they’d like your input on that.
The Centennial Trail is built on MWRD property through a lease agreement with the Forest Preserve District of Cook County. Trucks can transport the overburden nearly five miles down along the Sanitary & Ship Canal to the dump site, never leaving MWRD property, avoiding public roads. This has huge savings for the agency by avoiding dumping permits, tipping fees, other transportation costs—$9 million total savings for the $18 million project.
It’s the kind of lean, cost-efficient thinking we want out of our public agencies. But we also want them to be good stewards, and in this case, there’s a federally funded trail there.
When the overburden removal is complete, where these guys are riding (yes, I was in a car, and it’s ironic, get over it) will instead be a dirt pile that’s 1.5 miles long from Route 83 east, and 60 feet high. The Centennial Trail, which was named by the Forest Preserve District of Cook County in honor of the MWRD’s centennial, will be buried beneath it. Over $3 million in federal transportation money paid for the trail’s construction, and nearly $1 million local tax payer money.
The MWRD needs 2-3 years to complete overburden removal. In 2015, the agency will build a new trail on the north side of the pile, closer to the Des Plaines River. In the mean time, the MWRD plans to sign a detour route on both Route 83 and at Columbia Woods along Willow Springs Road directing Centennial Trail users to the I&M Canal Trail on the other side of the Sanitary & Ship Canal.
Here are issues that trail users need resolved:
1. A detour across the Willow Springs Road bridge to its intersection with Archer Road is confusing and dangerous. The John Husar I&M Trailhead, the detour’s destination, is completely hidden and unsigned from Willow Springs Road and Archer Road. How will the MWRD work with Cook County Highways, IDOT, and the Forest Preserve District of Cook County to mitigate these issues? Can they provide a permanent wayfinding sign solution for the John Husar trailhead?
2. The MWRD closed the Centennial Trail in early March without notifying the public, the Forest Preserve District, the adjacent communities, and IDOT (a requirement when closing a federally funded transportation facility). Now their public meeting is four days before closure. The agency is too important as a regional trail partner to be so cavalier about its plans. Will the MWRD establish a protocol of alerting the public and necessary agencies regarding potential trail impacts during project planning, before the scope is finalized and the project bid?
3. The MWRD should show a detailed plan for the Centennial Trail’s replacement. The landscape of the “island” between the Sanitary & Ship Canal and the Des Plaines River will be dramatically and permanently changed. A new trail to replace the Centennial will have to deal with slope, erosion, increased flooding as the giant berm contains Des Plaines River overflow. Will the MWRD partner with the Forest Preserve District of Cook County in a public process to develop the planning and design specifications for a replacement trail?
4. Will the replacement trail be finished at the close of the overburden project, or will it be built after the 2-3 year closure—and really be unavailable for four years or more?
5. The Centennial Trail is part of the I&M Canal National Heritage Corridor, and is planned to connect to Salt Creek Trail at the historic portage site at 47th St. and Harlem.
From there, trail users could bicycle to Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg. That extension is nearly entirely on MWRD property, as is the current Centennial Trail. In exchange for eliminating 2-3 years of service to trail users along the Centennial Trail, will the MWRD enable the Forest Preserve District of Cook County to develop the connection to the portage site?
6. The overburden pile of clean earth can itself become a recreational resource. Its height would put one above the tree line, giving a spectacular view of the valley and likely the city of Chicago. Will the MWRD allow organizations to develop walking and mountain biking trails that climb the berm?
None of these points are intended to stop the McCook Reservoir expansion from on-time completion—we need the MWRD to do its job, AND to live up to their well-earned reputation as fantastic trail building partners.
What other recommendations or issues will you bring to the meeting? Share them!
I think the most unused trail in the state is the I & M canal. Any thoughts on going that!!! Channanon to Starve Rock Park and back. I know its alot longer but might be a plan!!! Anyone interested in doing this !! There is some cool towns you pass and camping at the state park. Is there anyone I can contact?? Maybe organize it for 2014??
Hi, Ken! Great minds think alike: GITy Up is designed to move around to Illinois’ different trails. We’re returning to the IPP/Fox River to make sure we’ve improved on some things from last year.
Lots of folks bike camp on the I&M and the Hennepin Canal too, some even leaving from Joliet. It’s definitely on our list. You should check it out this year for bike camping and report back!
We set out to have a different conversation with Illinois about trails and their role in improving our communities and our lives and even the way we view our state. With Making Trails Count in Illinois, I feel like the conversation has begun.
Reader, I want you to think right now about joining us at Trails for Illinois. This organization has had a long, quiet history that closes today. As the profile of trails in Illinois rises, so our numbers must rise to turn the changing perspective on trails into action.
Will you please consider joining us, here at the beginning of a new trails movement in Illinois? You can click here; it’s simple and secure.
We are grateful for the weeks to come. May your home be your trailhead.
It’s a great story of Kennedy’s iron determination and commitment to his brother’s office, and it kicked off an American obsession with walking 50 miles that spread to Europe. But as his then-Administrative Assistant James Symington told how Kennedy’s Newfoundland, along for the hike, kept knocking Symington into the C&O Canal, I was suddenly imagining this hike taking place along the Hennepin Canal State Trail, or the I&M Canal State Trail.
What would it take for a walk along these historic waterways to inspire a state to get outdoors, moving under one’s own power? Maybe a challenge from our president could do it—I don’t really know. I do know that I’m feeling inspired. I’m going to get a 50-mile hike in this summer. Kennedy’s walk lasted 17+ hours—a long day, but only one long day. Maybe September. Maybe Tunnel Hill in October? I’ll invite you to join me, unless you invite me first.
In the short term, it has been requested by some aldermen that our trail have some etiquette signage installed in a couple of places. While the designation of food, drink and restrooms is also being considered, they would like the trail courtesy and etiquette signs up for this spring. Our neighboring town said if we come up with something that looks good, perhaps they would incorporate into their section as well.
Do you have any samples of trail usage signs that you like or have found to be effective? Looking for things like appropriate passing, respect for private property, using recycle cans, riding single file during congested times etc…..
Laura, they don’t work. People want signs so that they can point out what the rules are to people thought to be breaking them.
A lot of the problem is that ALL the rules get put on a sign. Traffic signs do not work this way. “SPEED LIMIT 50 MPH” - just one rule on one sign, not:
Speed limit is 50 MPH. Faster drivers will be ticketed!
Stay on the right of the road except when passing
Use your headlights after sunset
Please stop for pedestrians
When waved at, wave back. All non-wavers will be ticketed
…and on and on, all in like 14 point type. But agencies install trail signs like this all the time, and no one reads them. You also of course can’t put all the rules that everyone wants each on their own sign - you’d have a trail experience that’s nothing but signs.
So rules & etiquette signs waste money, returning no value to the trail user experience, or to the towns that install them. Why do roads get away with not putting up a sign with ALL the rules? Because people are taught the rules and etiquette of driving. How to use and share trails isn’t taught.
Better use of money: Use the bike shops, running groups, park districts, community resources (newsletter, mailings, etc) to teach trail use. Incentivize taking a quiz—a free ice cream cone? Our survey work shows that many of the users on a trail are local residents. So an effort in your community to create better trail users would hit a lot of the trail users that others are grumbling about.
If a sign has to go up, pick one rule. Maybe a sign ONLY about passing/being passed:
Could be fun, like the “KEEP CALM/CARRY ON” posters. But wow, no more message than that. In fact, maybe that’s your campaign right there with bike shops, park districts, etc., just getting that one lesson taught.
Getting more consideration between fast & slow trail users would speak to most of the conflicts trails have.
As for issues like dog poop or recycling-only bins, only a sign next to recycling only bins, or next to a doggy bag dispenser would be worth putting up. One sign, one message, with desired action clearly in view.
And then a town can use all the money it saved to make signs helping people find the trail, and inviting trail users to come into town and stay a while! THOSE are signs that return value.
A great sign reference is “Signs, Trails & Wayside Exhibits” from University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. I refer to it a lot, great guidance and many examples.
One more thing: lots of times, courtesy and rules come up as a response to rising traffic on a trail. When traffic becomes a headache on the road to the mall, we widen the road. Trails return enough value to communities that expanding trails—widening to 12’, building adjacent walking/running paths, building more trails nearby—is just as appropriate a response. In metro areas, trails should be at least 12’ wide (instead of common 8’-10’), and in some places have separate surfaces for biking and running/walking, when they’re first built. We build roads based on the traffic we need/want to accommodate. Trails should be designed and built the same way.
Thanks for the question, Laura. I’m going to post this to my blog. Let me know how else I can help.
Steve Buchtel, Executive Director
Trails for Illinois 1639 Burr Oak Rd. Homewood, IL 60430 p: 708/365-9365
Steve … Your presentation in Batavia a few days ago was fantastic. There are so many opportunities to build and link trail systems in Illinois … and to take advantage of that network to generate economic development and tourism dollars. Hope you’ll be available to reprise your talk in June at a bike summit our Elgin BPAC hopes to host. Maybe bring your guitar in case the audio/visual takes some time to sync. Keep up the good work! TAtheBA
How flawed? One current example: the Illinois Department of Transportation sent its award recommendations for the Illinois Transportation Enhancements Program—$50 million in federal money, with millions for trail projects!—to Governor Quinn in early October 2012 for approval to meet the agency’s own October awards announcement deadline.
That was three months ago. As costs go up, and towns and park districts remain in limbo about capital plans, as letting dates for construction slip…we’re still waiting.
We congratulate Quincy’s Rotary Club and Friends of the Trails on taking a local stake in the health and economic vitality of their community.
Today, tell your state senator to pass IDNR's funding package
The state legislature is likely to bring the Illinois Department of Revenue's sustainability package to a vote this veto session, maybe as early as today. Use this link to make sure your state senator knows that you believe a strong IDNR is key to Illinois' quality of life:
You might recall (or not*) that the IDNR’s sustainability bill, a package of program and policy changes that would, among other things, restore the defunct Illinois Bike Path Program, fell three votes shy of passing this spring under the General Assembly’s post-midnight-last-day-of-session super majority rules. The IDNR and supporting legislators feel the votes are there this fall to pass it. We’d feel a whole lot better if a few of you took 93 seconds* to write a quick note to your legislator.
That’s Jeremy Robinett in the picture above, doctoral candidate at University of Illinois and research assistant with the Office of Recreation and Park Resources (ORPR). Jeremy is the lead analyst for Making Trails Count, and has studied the data from nearly 800 surveys collected by our amazing survey collection teams and on-line. I tried to stage a photo that made him look busy analyzing data. Instead he looks to be having a pleasant conversation with Microsoft Windows. I will stay out of the stock photo business.
Jeremy and the ORPR have begun sharing some initial observations about our data collected from trail users that frankly is very difficult to sit on. The data describes relationships between trail use and benefits to Illinois’ economy, its natural environment, its people. In the context of the total number of trail users we counted—numbers that are likely to be eye opening for most—with help from Rails to Trails Conservancy, we are very likely to start a new conversation about trails’ role in Illinois quality of life.
So why sit on it? Because the findings are preliminary, mostly. Our target publishing date is February 2013. If you gave to Making Trails Count—like Mike Hanley, John Wilson, Eberhard Veit, Pat Weseloh, Michael Longo, Robin Hall all did, generously—you’ll be the first to receive a copy of the report. You can get on that list (and get one of our cool trailhead stickers) by making a year-end contribution to Trails for Illinois. Do this now.
Meanwhile, some of the data will be sneaking into my presentations for the rest of this year. I’m speaking at the Quad Cities Riverfront Council meeting tomorrow in Davenport at noon, Friends of the Hennepin Canal this Thursday at the Hennepin Canal Visitor Center in Sheffield, 6:30 PM, and at Friends of the Rock Island Trail meeting December 5 at Avanti’s in East Peoria, 6 PM. Come on out! If you want to ride with me (leaving from Chicago south suburbs), I’d enjoy the company.