One tiny 612-foot trail extension in Shorewood is setting the stage for future trail connections as the puzzle that is the DuPage River Trail system comes together piece by piece.
The trail extension that was completed in early January stretches from Grinton Grove, on the southern end of Hammel Woods – Route 59 Access, under Route 52 (Jefferson Street) to Eastshore Drive. While the pavement's length is small, it’s an important part of the DuPage River Trail system that will bring pedestrians and bicyclists safely through the busy intersection of routes 52 and 59.
A license agreement with an adjacent landowner paved the way for the trail project to be completed, said Ralph Schultz, the Forest Preserve’s chief operating officer.
“This is a short piece of trail but it’s a crucial connection,” he said. “It provides a safe connection for people moving under Route 52 along the DuPage River Trail. And proposed Village of Shorewood project would extend the path west of Route 59 sometime in the future."
The DuPage River Trail system is a 40-mile planned path puzzle that currently exists in multiple pieces from DuPage County south into Will County. About half of the trail is completed currently. At the Forest Preserve’s DuPage River Confluence Preserve in Bolingbrook, the trail and the river split into east and west branches heading north into DuPage County. But there is only one river and trail branch in Will County.
The Will County section of the trail will ultimately continue south from Shorewood toward Channahon, where it will connect to the state-owned I&M Canal Trail at the Forest Preserve’s Lake Chaminwood Preserve.
But it’s going to take a while to get there, Schultz said. The trail can’t follow the river for all of the journey south from Shorewood to Channahon because the land is privately owned. But it can take a route along River Road, and that is the current plan. The trail would have to go over Interstate 80 and cross railroad tracks and the river before getting to Lake Chaminwood. While that section of trail will be expensive, Schultz said he believes it will be built eventually.
“All of the governmental agencies involved in the DuPage River Trail system are committed to the vision and they incorporated it into their comprehensive plans years ago,” he said.
The Forest Preserve District has worked in collaboration with partners on other sections of the trail in recent years and another is coming this year.
October 2015: Two new sections of the DuPage River Trail opened at the Forest Preserve’s Whalon Lake in Naperville. The southern trail extension connects the preserve to the Hidden Lakes Historic Trout Farm and Hidden Oaks Nature Center in Bolingbrook. Another connection from Whalon Lake extended the trail north to Paxson Drive.
October 2016: A 1-mile DuPage River Trail addition opened that connects Knoch Knolls Park in Naperville to the 95th Street Bridge over the DuPage River. The Forest Preserve collaborated with the Naperville Park District on the project.
2017-2018: A 1.25-mile trail extension from Whalon Lake north to the Greene Valley Preserve in DuPage County is scheduled to open in 2018. The bicounty trail segment is being constructed along Royce and Greene roads by Elmhurst Chicago Stone, which owns a quarry adjacent to the preserve.
2018: Work will begin on a trail segment that links the DuPage River Trail with the Rock Run Greenway Trail. The extension will be built along Black Road and it will include bridges over Interstate 55 and the DuPage River and it will link Joliet and Shorewood. The state is overseeing the project, which is funded by grants and Forest Preserve dollars.
In addition to working on regional trail systems, the Forest Preserve and municipalities throughout Will County continue to build local trails that connect to regional trails, Schultz said. Trails are designed to get people to work, shopping centers and school, and they also offer recreational opportunities for people who want to walk, run or ride for fitness or relaxation.
“The larger trail systems – the Wauponsee Glacial Trail, Old Plank Road Trail and the DuPage River Trail – are the spine of the network,” Schultz said. “The more local connections we have to those larger trail systems, the more regional connections we can make along that spine. And we want to connect the whole system of regional trails in DuPage County and the Fox River Trail system in Kane and Kendall Counties to the regional trail systems in Will County and beyond.”
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