The Forest Preserve District has joined a Trail Moments campaign to show how important local and regional trails are to our health and well-being, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The effort was organized by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a nonprofit group that promotes the creation of trails from former rail lines. The Forest Preserve District has installed signs promoting the campaign on its converted rail line trails to encourage those who use them to share their special Trail Moments with others. The Forest Preserve District’s rails-to-trails paths are the Joliet Junction, Old Plank Road and Wauponsee Glacial trails.
“We believe that these trails are part of the fabric of the communities they serve and offer users a safe way to exercise their minds and bodies and experience a little bit of the nature around them,” said Ralph Schultz, the Forest Preserve District’s chief operating officer. “And we’d like to hear from others how these trails have impacted their lives.”
To share your Trail Moments and recent trail experiences, fill out the Rails-to-Trails survey. You can also share using #TrailMoments on social media.
Do you have a special trail you run, walk or bike on every day? Have you discovered a new trail since the pandemic hit in the spring? Is there a special wildlife viewing trail that soothes the stress in your life? Share your story to show others the power of the path.
Having these types of longer connecting paths to recreate on during a pandemic provides a safe way to play, commute, walk, bike, run and explore, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s website states in explaining the Trail Moments campaign.
“At Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, we want to capture these moments – moments of joy, moments of solitude, moments for exercise and self-care," the group explained. "We hope these stories … your stories … will inspire others to explore trails and the outdoors close to home, while helping our local leaders understand how important trails are to the health and well-being of our communities.”
Schultz said he has experienced his own special trail moments throughout his life.
“I grew up about a half mile from the Illinois Prairie Path which was one of the first rail-trail conversions in the nation,” he said. “And I remember many times riding from my house in Naperville Township eastward to Warrenville and Blackwell Forest Preserve in DuPage County. That was the mid- to late-1970s and my first rail-trail experience.”
Schultz has worked on all three rail-to-trail conversions in the Forest Preserve District of Will County.
“My favorite memory is opening day on the Old Plank Road Trail and the ride the OPRT Management Commission sponsored to celebrate its completion,” he said. “My then 4-year-old daughter was with me at the time and we had a blast.”
Many of the stories being posted online show how people across the country are using the trails to fight stress or stay healthy:
“Riding these trails has been so impactful; it has brought me a healthy way to work out the stresses of life — and a peace of mind.” —Anamaria Spiteri, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
“We take for granted these public spaces and the impact they can have … just to be able to take a run and connect with nature and back into your own mind is priceless.” —Quest Skinner, Washington, D.C.
“The countless hours spent on the trails have helped propel me through tough times. The awe-inspiring scenery and peacefulness of them provide such a gift!” —Kasia Martin, Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania
To read more of the stories being shared, visit the Trail Moments website.
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