Written by Jeff Long
Wednesday, 04 December 2013 00:00
Do you take certain things for granted? You know, modern conveniences like high-definition TV, online shopping and bike trails?
Yes, bike trails.
We are blessed here and around the Fox Valley Park District with an interconnected network of world-class trails. Many of us enjoy them regularly, be it walking, jogging, running, bird-watching, bicycling, strolling the kids, cross country skiing or just ambling and sight-seeing amid nature’s beauty.
We’re reminded how lucky we are when out-of-town guests visit. They rave about “our” trails and often voice the sentiment “I-wish-we-had-trails-like-these-where-we-live!”
The kudos for our local trails continued last week, when the national Rails-to-Trails Conservancy released its “List of Top 10 Trails in Illinois.” Two local trails that run through the heart of the Park District – the Fox River Trail and the Illinois Prairie Path – were major honorees on that list.
These trails didn’t earn Top 10 status through an arbitrary ranking by one person, but based upon state-wide voting and reviews by actual trail users – lots of them.
“The people of Illinois responded en masse,” wrote Jake Lynch, Marketing and Media Relations Specialist for RTC, based in Washington D.C.
The Fox River Trail parallels its river namesake all the way from Oswego north to Algonquin, where it connects with the Prairie Trail and continues to the Wisconsin border. Its entire, scenic length alters between beautiful parks, forest preserves and pedestrian-friendly downtowns, including Montgomery, Aurora and North Aurora.
Of the Fox River Trail, RTC noted, “5-star review after 5-star review at www.TrailLink.com testifies to the love for this idyllic but feature-filled gem west of Chicago. It earns extra points for its connections to other trails, including the Virgil Gilman Trail and Illinois Prairie Path in Aurora.”
The popular Gilman Trail – which runs 11.2 miles from Hill Avenue (Route 30) in Montgomery to Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove – holds its own legendary status as the first linear park in the United States (circa 1955).
The Illinois Prairie Path runs from Chicago to Wheaton, from where it branches to Elgin, Aurora and Batavia (from the Aurora spur), bisecting the Fox River Trail at all three locations. The Aurora section passes alongside five FVPD parks in quick succession – Birmingham, O’Donnell, Indian Creek, Church Road and Indian Trail East.
In 2008, the IPP was inducted into the nationally-acclaimed Rail-Trail Hall of Fame.
“A true icon of America's rail-trail movement, the Illinois Prairie Path has a significant legacy,” noted the RTC review. “More than 800,000 users now visit the trail each year and it has inspired the creation of other rail-trails in Illinois and across the country.”
Count the Fox Valley Park District in that group. With 45 miles of trails owned and maintained, its network and connections continue to grow each year. An exciting new project at South River Street Park is nearly complete, with construction of a new trailhead connecting the Fox River and Gilman trails.
“The new trailhead provides a central location for users to access two different trails and offers a gateway for travel in all directions – north, south, east and west,” said Jeff Palmquist, Director of Planning, Development and Grants. “We expect it will become a major hub for our growing trail network.”
In 2010, the Park District extended the Fox River Trail through South River Street Park to “close the gap” and connect with the new Trail Gap bridge across the Fox River to Hurds Island.
Yes, we love our trails. And, apparently, so do a lot of others, which we are happy to report.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 December 2013 14:33