Two hundred thousand ice cream cones: Palos Heights, Illinois parks & recreation director Mike Leonard shares how Making Trails Count in Illinois will help him make the case for economic development along the Cal-Sag Trail.
Reviewing the printer’s proof for Making Trails Count in Illinois. Average spending $30+ per trail visit…. Did I just tumblr that out loud?
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
May your home be your trailhead.
What a lovely book to find in my library.
GITy Up!, our our overnight bike camping adventure, has infected me with the bug for bike camping. This despite that I was the planner/organizer/director/truck driver/clean up guy—I had the least fun of all!
But I am, I’m hooked. Last week, I scored a deal at GITy Up! partner REI’s outlet store on a backpacking tent and sleeping bag. Yesterday, I ordered a tiny little Trangia stove. I have my sights set on Vienna, IL and camping along Tunnel Hill State Trail this October. You can’t read about or see the tunnel, the depot, the beautiful and rolling Southern Illinois landscape and not want to explore. And the canyon snakes!
GITy Up! proved to be a powerful vector for the bike camping contagion. Our GITy Up! rider survey reveals that 76% of survey respondents (31 of 57 responded) had never been bike camping before. Of these first timers, 60% are now preparing to go bike camping on their own.
Nearly ALL of them are purchasing new bike camping gear for their next trip—tents, sleeping bags, trailers, panniers, etc. On average, each of them estimates they’ll spend $177 on the new gear.
This is on top of the $1600 our 87 adult riders spent during GITy Up! at Batavia Fest, local restaurants and bars, liquor stores, bike shops, and the Batavia Quarry.
Trail-based tourism is a viable economic engine for Illinois communities and our state. We are so proud of GITy Up!’s ability to introduce bike camping to so many people, and to contribute to local economies.
And I can not wait to hit the trail.
When we stopped by on the GITy Up! 2012 Recon Ride this past Friday, Matt Knowles, the handsome guy on the left there in front of his trail-side Batavia shop, told us that Fox River Trail users are spending $350 a day with him buying accessories, energy bars and drinks. “Like gloves and tubes and things they forgot or realize they need,” he said.
That’s a nice bump in walk-in traffic. What we love though is that Matt’s counting.
It is far, far too rare that our trail towns and trail-serving businesses measure the impact that the trail is having. Not only are they likely not capturing all the return the trail can generate. But they are missing a compelling reason to improve, connect and extend it.
Our Making Trails Count project aims to put this mistake behind Illinois, and make counting like Matt’s doing the norm. Read our proposal. Think about what that’s worth to you. Then make a pledge today!
Bike & Dine, Lockport!, a set on Flickr.
National Trails Day was well met by Bike & Dine, Lockport! today. Pitch perfect weather, a historic community, a national trail corridor and three amazing restaurants conspired to showcase the possibilities in Illinois trail towns for trail-based tourism and economic development.
Half of the funds raised will purchase way finding signs along Lockport’s I&M Trail that will help trail users explore the historical sites and lovely shops of Lockport’s downtown. The other half will support Trails for Illinois’ work with Illinois communities to leverage their trail connections for economic development and a higher quality of life.
Our biggest, loudest thanks to Tallgrass, Mangia, and Public Landing for AMAZING cuisine and service. And to Mainstreet Lockport and Lynn & Tom Sperling, who coordinated the restaurants and our route.
Enjoy the photos!
The Righteous Path
Six 3-6 minute videos from Trails for Illinois’ presentation at the Central Illinois Bike Summit. To positively impact local economies, our environment, our quality of life, the trails we design, build and maintain must transcend the recreational use category. We must build Righteous Paths.
Trails for Illinois is working hard to teach Illinois the promise of trails’ Triple Bottom Line. It’s a big state, and we could use your help! Please make a donation now to fuel our campaign.
I had the great honor of speaking at the Central Illinois Bike Summit in beautiful Normal, Illinois last Wednesday. I did my best to bring down some truth about the Triple Bottom Line of trails to a full hotel conference room, maybe 150 mayors, planners, engineers, trail & bicycle advocates—including some of my personal heroes in each of those categories. The message was well received—I got some Amens!—and I’m grateful to League of Illinois Bicyclists’ Gina Kenny for sitting in front and filming the whole thing.
Like every new presentation I’ve done, this feels like the trial run for the next one. And Lo!, an invitation has come to pass. An attendee in Normal has invited me to present at the Illinois American Planning Association state conference in Champaign-Urbana this fall. But I have room for more. If the Righteous Path is something you want folks to hear, invite me out.
Biking. Eating. A national heritage trail. Historic limestone buildings. The AAA 4 diamond rated Tallgrass Restaurant. Trails help us live life to its fullest, and in Lockport on June 2, oh, we shall live fully.
More info here (and share this link!): http://trailsforillinois.tumblr.com/bikeanddine
I spent a near-80 degree afternoon in Effingham yesterday walking the Calico Trail, a ribbon of concrete that plunges, rises and twists through gorgeous woodlands, with Frank Brummer. (We put up photos from the walk on Flickr.)
Frank’s the president of League of Illinois Bicyclists, and president of Trail Recreation in Effingham County, or TREC. Frank’s involvement with TREC can be directly credited for their success in getting the Calico Trail planned and built; about 2 miles of the 3+ mile trail is complete while the rest, primarily bridges over the Little Wabash River and I-70 is under construction.
While he has doggedly and expertly advocated for the trail with public agencies, Frank’s been especially adept at bringing in the private funding that fuels the project, particularly by shaking loose public funds: Frank estimates that TREC has leveraged hundreds of thousands of dollars in private donations to raise $5-6 million in just six years for the trail.
We like to study the process behind trail development, particularly when it’s successfully leveraging private funding and investments. We’ve been enamored by the success of Terry Whaley at Ozarks Greenways, Terry Eastin and Little Rock, AR’s Medical Mile, and Fort Wayne Trails’ work Indiana. So the time Frank spent with me walking the trail yesterday was welcome (I’d been sitting in a dark, cold conference room for a rural health workshop, of all things), encouraging and educational.
I want to share with you some takeaways from our conversation that I think are replicable by trail-builders across the state. We’ll call them Frank’s Principles:
1. Use the Three Ws to upgrade your board. For many trail builders, the task at hand is to find funding. Frank says that when he joined TREC’s board, the board members were primarily like him—people who loved trails and wanted more opportunities to ride them. He asked them to resign. “You only need one or two people passionate about trails on the board,” says Frank. To take their seats, he recruited a former bank president, the CEO of the local hospital, a CPA, a prominent lawyer…. Frank uses the three Ws as a screen for board members: Work, Wealth, and Wisdom. “Two of those is better than one,” for a board member says Frank. “But they got to have at least one.”
2. Fundraise using the 80-20 rule. “Eighty percent of your fundraising comes from 20% of your supporters,” says Frank. That means focusing fundraising on the big check writers, and leveraging small events as friend raising, not fundraising. “I don’t want someone to give $10, get a free burger and feel like they’re pitching in,” says Frank. “I’d rather boost numbers by giving burgers away for free.” Boosting numbers of supporters gives politicians cover to support a project. And big supporter numbers prove to business leaders and private donors that the return in good will and recognition will be worth the big check.
3. Bring credibility to the ask. Frank has tremendous standing in the community as a father, a business leader, as a tireless volunteer. But he’s also put his own skin into the Calico Trail, making a substantial monetary donation of his own as well. When he takes a donor out to dinner, he makes sure they know of his personal commitment. And he piles on the credibility by bringing a board member to the ask whom the donor is likely to know and respect.
4. Identify a kick-off donor. For each phase of the Calico’s development, Frank has first identified and worked to win a kick-off donor, typically with the promise of naming rights. Again, it’s about letting others know that someone else has skin in the game—people feel better about decisions, including decisions to donate, knowing they’re not alone.
5. Sell everything. Benches line Calico Trail, each with a plaque acknowledging the donor. Kiosks, trail markers, and trail maps will offer donors naming opportunities, as will the bridge over the Little Wabash. The benches, markers and kiosks can bring thousands of dollars each—”We ask the donor based on what we think they can give,” says Frank. Naming rights to 160-ft. Little Wabash bridge will be $100,000 or more.
6. Make friends to influence people. The head of the local IDOT district who initially wrestled with Frank over adding trails and bike accommodations is a Frisbee golf player, Frank discovered. “I told him I had an 18 hole Frisbee golf course on my property, and I found out we have a lot of shared interests.” The district head now serves as an engineering advisor to TREC. “It’s just like doing business—you have to start with relationships. TREC doesn’t even have a website yet, or its own phone number. I told the board I don’t need that yet; I’ve got to get to know people.”
How are you getting your trail project funded and built?
Rachel Englehardt—Yorkville mother of three and entrepreneur—lays out the challenge tonight for Yorkville families and anyone else who could benefit from safe, convenient walking and biking connections to the region’s multi-use trail network.
At some point—preferably now—towns like Yorkville (and most Illinois towns are so much like Yorkville) will begin to shift their thinking about economic development away from attracting the big box—to whom towns typically give millions of dollars of tax subsidy in return for the fewest number of jobs per square foot—to attracting moms and dads who start up businesses.
What would your town benefit from more: 50 big box jobs or 50 Rachel Engelhardts? The warehouses & big box development, they want subsidies, huge parking lots, even bigger retention basins, and bigger roads—all of it existing at the whim of energy prices and decisions made far away. The Rachels, they will establish homes, build families, and create opportunities for themselves and others. And they want trails.
The city council meeting tonight is at 7:00 p.m., Yorkville City Hall, 800 Game Farm Road. Go and speak up! Or at least send Push for the Path your support.