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Chicagoan Sally Olds (top left picture, far left) has been an annual supporter of Illinois Trails Conservancy/Trails for Illinois since ITC calved from Rails-to-Trails Conservancy in 2000. She frequently battles the buffeting winds on lakefront rides, and last year joined an electric bicycle touring company for a cycle tour of the Swiss Alps.

But she recently mentioned to me that she hadn’t ridden the Old Plank Road Trail in Chicago’s far south suburbs. So board member Bev Moore (far right) and I hatched a semi-self-serving plan: invite Sally down for a ride and ice cream. Sometimes trail advocacy requires sacrifice! :-)

Sally drove down from the city and Bev brought her riding pal Brucie (middle) to a popular OPRT access point Cicero Ave. in Matteson, just south of US 30. A beautiful 73 degree day! We rode 6.5 miles to downtown Frankfort, which frequently makes my presentations as a positive example of how a town can leverage a trail for development and quality of life. Kernel Sweetooth served up scoops of ice cream as big as John Henry’s fist, and we checked out iconic Arrowhead Bridge just west of downtown. We enjoyed a relaxing pedal back to our cars. 

We had great time. And it gave us another semi-self-serving idea: we need to invite more of our loyal supporters to go for a ride, a run, a walk on one of our beautiful Illinois trails.

It’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make. :-)


Thorn Creek Bridge, RIP, a set on Flickr.
 It’s worth mourning when an old rail road bridge collapses. Bridges are special - so often they’re the focal point of a trail trip, the wonderful payoff. This one could have given Old Plank Road Trail users an amazing view of the archaeologically significant Thorn Creek in Chicago Heights, IL. We were out looking at the still-standing bridge just weeks ago. Pete Petrouski shot these pictures over this past weekend. The Old Plank Road Trail extension into the Heights has to use short on-street connections to reach the planned Thorn Creek Trail. Both are part of the 450-mile Grand Illinois Trail. We’re pretty sure you’d rather connect trail-to-trail, especially if you get to cross a creek 50’ in the air at tree top level. But bridges are expensive… …unless you’re a bridge built by Forest Preserve District of Will Co. Their new bridge over Plum Creek at Goodenow Grove near Beecher, Ill. makes a similar crossing, was completed in just days, and cost the FPD of Will Co. less than $300,000. Replacing the Thorn Creek bridge would daylight a lot of what’s beautiful and fascinating about the Thorn Creek corridor - its rich history of primitive settlements, its biodiversity, its importance for flood control in the Chicago Southland. We can’t wait for the Old Plank Road Trail extension to be finished later this year. It’s a pleasant, easy & safe route in an interesting, historic neighborhood. But we also sure do like imagining ourselves above the creek, looking back into time, moving on.
Thorn Creek Bridge

Thorn Creek Bridge, RIP, a set on Flickr.


It’s worth mourning when an old rail road bridge collapses. Bridges are special - so often they’re the focal point of a trail trip, the wonderful payoff. This one could have given Old Plank Road Trail users an amazing view of the archaeologically significant Thorn Creek in Chicago Heights, IL. We were out looking at the still-standing bridge just weeks ago. Pete Petrouski shot these pictures over this past weekend.

The Old Plank Road Trail extension into the Heights has to use short on-street connections to reach the planned Thorn Creek Trail. Both are part of the 450-mile Grand Illinois Trail.

We’re pretty sure you’d rather connect trail-to-trail, especially if you get to cross a creek 50’ in the air at tree top level. But bridges are expensive…

…unless you’re a bridge built by Forest Preserve District of Will Co. Their new bridge over Plum Creek at Goodenow Grove near Beecher, Ill. makes a similar crossing, was completed in just days, and cost the FPD of Will Co. less than $300,000.

Replacing the Thorn Creek bridge would daylight a lot of what’s beautiful and fascinating about the Thorn Creek corridor - its rich history of primitive settlements, its biodiversity, its importance for flood control in the Chicago Southland.

We can’t wait for the Old Plank Road Trail extension to be finished later this year. It’s a pleasant, easy & safe route in an interesting, historic neighborhood. But we also sure do like imagining ourselves above the creek, looking back into time, moving on.

OPRT workday 2009

Rails to Trails’ Jake Lynch gave great ink to National Park Service's Diane Banta and IDNR’s George Bellovics’ dogged efforts to help the Heights begin completing this onerous gap in the Grand Illinois Trail.