A hiking trail can be a place of wholeness and peace; it can be a place where a mind can escape from emails, phone bills, gas prices or college history papers. A hiking trail is a niche for those who strive to see the outdoors, achieve clarity and escape the modern world if only for a while.
A trail is more than a trail to Trails for Illinois, as well as Maple 1. Maple 1 is a diverse team of eight adults ranging from 18- 24 representing the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps. With all different backgrounds, skill sets, educations, goals and motives, they have chosen to dedicate ten months to serve the community. Having served assignments with Habitat For Humanity in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and Detroit Metro YMCA In Detroit, Michigan, the trail of service now brings us to Shelbyville, Illinois to assist Trails for Illinois in their vision of a trail by every doorstep.
Maple 1 has been camping at Lake Shelbyville’s Lone Point Camping Site for two weeks now, and have grown accustom to the trials, tribulations and serene beauty of outdoor living. Luxuries for the team are a kitchen tent to cook food, tents to sleep in, a sink to wash dishes and electricity to run a refrigerator, coffee pot and to charge phones. Also two donated bikes are used to make trips to the showers close to half a mile away. Despite what would seem difficult living conditions the team has learned to make Lone Point their sanctuary. However, Maple 1 didn’t come to Shelbyville to camp, but to leave a legacy that anyone can enjoy. That legacy is trails, and hopefully eleven miles of it.
Tuesdays through Saturdays, 7am to 4pm you can find Maple 1 on the Chief Illini Trail, restoring this battered resource to a first-class hiking experience worthy of state pride. We dodge the Poison Ivy that snakes up trees, keep a sharp eye for sneaky ticks and enjoy the sweetness of water on hot Illinois days. Trail building requires a few team mates to cut low limbs, small trees and remove down limbs as we reroute and recut trail to eliminate problem areas and stop erosion. If a limb or tree is too big we’ll bring in our teams’ trained chain sawyers, and soon we’ll have an open path ready for trail construction.
Ideal tools for trail building are the Pulaski and the McLeod, which happen to be popular fire fighting tools. Using these tools the team will dig into the sides of hills and valleys, through roots and rock to make a long lasting trail. Doing a few hundred feet of trail can take hours, but the end result is so wonderful you just smile walking on it. So far we have completed three and half miles in our first two weeks [see the work map], and hope to create even more in the coming weeks.
Every day is an adventure when you have to hike miles in the wilderness to make trails, and then come back and camp only to do it again the next day. Here we will share that adventure with you so that others can learn the pride, sense of accomplishment and peace that comes along with trail building.
When he puts down his Pulaski, Andrew is Maple 1’s media representative.
National Park Service Rivers, Trails & Conservation Assistance program coordinator Diane Banta took these photos of the first two days of Americorps NCCC at Lake Shelbyville, IL. This beautiful crew of young adults will rebuild, reroute and repair dilapidated sections of the 11-mile Illini Trail over five weeks. Enjoy!
My name is Levi Borreson, and I am the owner and framebuilder at Legacy Frameworks in Bridgeport (http://legacyframeworks.com). I have decided to build a bicycle to honor and support Illinois Trail Corps, and its effort to empower Illinois communities to be trail builders again. My great grandfather was part of the Civilian Conservation Corps that partly inspired this effort, so this initiative is close to me.
The bicycle I’m developing is a fast cross-country machine sometimes called a Randonneur, the type of bike you take on a quick 150-mile overnight tour, good for carrying a sleeping bag with a sandwich and clean bike shorts rolled up in it…but also good when you don’t plan to stop at all.
I’m calling it the Scout, being a fast moving and steadfast machine—and invoking the spirit of citizenship.
The first production bike will be a special edition called the Phil T. Hodge. He was the crazed genius of the Illinois Prairie Path’s Volunteer Bridge in Wheaton, who led volunteers and teenagers to weld trusses and pour concrete from a crane. It’s his spirit that fuels Illinois Trail Corps, and I want this bike to embody that.
It will be Trails for Illinois green—Pantone 577, thanks for asking—and while its heritage reaches back to the fast French light touring bikes of the 1950s, its components will be modern with brake lever shifting, disc brakes, and a 10-speed compact drive train. The front rack, appropriate for a sleeping bag and/or six pack, is included.
While I will use this effort to create a new line of fast touring bikes, there will only ever be one Phil T. Hodge edition, and it will only be available as a premium for donating to Illinois Trail Corps.
I was meeting the Michael half of awesome TforI supporters Michael & Janet Hanley to talk with him about Illinois Trail Corps. I’ve done gobs of riding in and around Chicago, but it’s been a LONG time—all of the new stuff, the buffered bike lanes, the two-way bike lane on Dearborn, the bike signals, Divvy, bike racks where parking spaces used to be…NONE of that was there the last time I rode in the city. All my biking’s been local for a few years now in my small town; any distance has been on trail.
So some observations:
• Biking in the Loop at mid-day is no faster than driving. That is to say, it sucks. And on a cargo bike, the gaps to sneak by just aren’t as plentiful. Uck.
• I obey more traffic lights than I used to, and I contend it’s not because I’m old. All the bike accomodations make me a little more respectful of the regulatory stuff. It’s like, wow, the streets are respecting me a little more, I should honor that. That’s how it feels, anyway. Also, I’m old.
• Buffered bike lanes…oh, you tempt me. I’ve been a LCI (look it up) and a street cyclist all my adult life. My training is to not be fond of fancy on-street bike facilities. But to my embarrassed surprise, I’ve discovered that I am. At least in the context of Milwaukee Ave. The separation from the cars, while it DOES make for an awkward dance with right turning cars at intersections, just feels…so…nice. (Duh, really: that’s why we like trails so much.)
• To continue the point: the Dearborn 2-way bike lane is fantastic; it was the only place in the Loop I rode that made me glad to be on a bike.
• Taxis seem so much more respectful than they use to, giving quick beeps as they came around me to cut me off. When did they ever alert anyone before? Buses crowded me like they had some point to prove, or maybe they are frighteningly blasè about stripes on a street.
• So many helmets! I would have never guessed so many people—young people!—would wear them. I wore one, but I confess that on a nice quiet trail, I dump it—I’m pretty much a situationist. Maybe they would too, but still, the urban helmet thing is good.
• Divvy bike share is everywhere, at least everywhere I went. Both kiosks and riders, every direction. #Phenomenal
• The Chicago Lakefront Trail, south of Navy Pier, is probably one of the most beautiful, spectacular trails in the whole world, and very likely THE most beautiful urban trail, anywhere, ever. North of Navy Pier, meh.
• Hot parking tip: Solidarity Drive, between the Field Museum and the Planetarium, was the in-the-know person’s parking when we had Field Museum memberships with a 3-yr old in tow. It was awesome to find that it is still awesomely cheap: 4 hours for $8.
It was a lot of fun, and lunch & a beer with Michael was fabulous. Get the Mother of Exiles pilsner. My god, that’s a good beer.
Governor Quinn announces Illinois DNR Bike Path Program awards
The Governor and IDNR announced funding for seven projects yesterday around the state, all funded through the IDNR’s Bike Path Program, which pays 50% of project costs up to $200,000. While you can Google to find each of these, we thought we’d do everyone a favor—including us—and consolidate all the press releases sent out yesterday.
We'll be rolling with Will B. Rolling on GITy Up! 2014
That’s 30’-tall Will B. Rolling being lowered into place this past fall in Port Byron, Illinois, one of the charming Mississippi River towns we’ll visit as GITy Up! goes bike camping along western Illinois’ Great River Trail, June 28-29, 2014.
GITy Up! is a tantalizing taste of trail-based bike touring for first-time bike campers and families. For the bike touring expert, it’s a RAGBRAI tune up and a quick fix for restless legs. GITy Up! 2014 features:
GITy Up! promotes trail-based tourism in Illinois and supports Trails for Illinois’ efforts to connect trails across our state and grow their use. Thanks for reading, and we look forward to hosting you and yours in June!
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!