As it is today.
In celebration of its centennial back in 1988-89, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago led the Centennial Trail’s establishment and its first stages of development, dedicating 1000 acres along the Sanitary & Ship Canal and the Des Plaines River without cost to the Forest Preserve Districts for the trail. They had a clear goal of completing the trail to the historic portage site at 47th St. and Harlem Ave., and from there on to Navy Pier, past the second project of their centennial celebration: the water jets over the Chicago River. A charming Sun-Times article from November 20, 1989, claimed the entire trail would be finished in three years. (Swoon!)
Note that this was before the federal 1991 Clean Air Act which set aside billions of dollars over the ensuing 20+ years for trail development. Trail building took partnership and initiative, and the MWRD led the way.
The Centennial Trail closure is the MWRD’s time to lead again. A resurgent Forest Preserve District of Cook County, now developing its Trails Master Plan, is the perfect partner to turn the Centennial Trail closure into a massive regional trail win, without adding time or cost to the McCook Reservoir expansion project. By granting an easement to the Forest Preserve District for trail development, the MWRD can clear the way for the Centennial’s extension to the portage site when the McCook Reservoir overburden project is finished in 2016. The portage site is also the Salt Creek Trail’s southeastern trail head, which connects to Woodfield Mall.
A three-year trail closure can become a 50-mile suburban trail connection between Joliet and Schaumburg. This is EXACTLY the kind of win-win-win collaboration that has characterized the MWRD’s projects in the past. Think the SEPA station parks along the Cal-Sag, or the original Centennial Trail. The agency has a history of reaching out beyond its own immediate needs to benefit us in ways beyond managing our sewers
“This is an excellent example of four governments coming together in a non-traditional way,” said MWRD Commissioner Joanne Alter, the chair of the Centennial Committee in 1989. It’s time to establish partnership as a new tradition.