A new DuPage River Trail extension approved by the Forest Preserve District of Will County's Board of Commissioners on June 8 will connect the District's Whalon Lake with Greene Valley Preserve in DuPage County.
The 1.25-mile bicounty trail segment will be constructed along Royce and Greene roads by Elmhurst Chicago Stone, which owns the quarry adjacent to Whalon Lake preserve in Naperville. A groundbreaking for the new trail segment has been scheduled for 1 p.m. on July 6 at the site. Trail completion is expected in 2018.
Once the 10-foot-wide crushed limestone path is in place, runners, walkers and bicyclists will have an easier time traveling between the two preserves.
"It will give people a safe connection between these two regional forest preserves," said Ralph Schultz, the District's chief operating officer. "Currently, to make that connection, you have to run or bike in the street or on the shoulder of the road. There are no sidewalks. And those are two-lane roads with truck traffic as well as a good amount of car traffic."
In addition to providing a safer connection between the preserves, the extension will link trail users with the many recreational spots and additional trail systems throughout the region as well as making a critical connection on the planned 40-mile DuPage River Trail system, which will stretch from DuPage County to Channahon in Will County when completed.
The agreement between the Forest Preserve and Elmhurst Chicago Stone grew out of previous flood control pacts in the 1990s. In exchange for being allowed to construct a flood water diversion channel on Forest Preserve property, the company agreed to help the District convert a dormant quarry to the west into a recreational site, which opened as Whalon Lake in 2008. The company also agreed to build a trail connection between Whalon and Greene Valley, but that contract expired before the work was completed.
The new agreement requires the company to contribute $1.1 million for the trail segment, which includes a bridge over the channel. The Forest Preserve will chip in around $350,000 and is waiving its channel operation licensing fees, which would have totaled around $540,000 over the life of the 99-year license with the company.
The channel will absorb flood water from the DuPage River and send it to Whalon Lake. The 80-acre lake can rise 10 feet during such an incident. Keeping flood water out of two nearby sand and gravel quarries allows Elmhurst Chicago Stone to continue its work and prevents the water from flowing downstream.
"Continuing our partnership with Elmhurst Chicago Stone has been important for the Forest Preserve to realize some of its long range goals," Schultz said referring to the creation of Whalon Lake and the upcoming trail extension. "But it's been equally important to the private company's goal of providing flood protection for its property."
The Forest Preserve District has a right of first refusal to buy the adjacent quarry when it shuts down in the future and, if that were to happen, Whalon Lake could be expanded to the east.
In addition to approving the collaboration with Elmhurst Chicago Stone, the Forest Preserve Board also approved an intergovernmental agreement that will allow the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County to take ownership of the new trail section that will be built within the Greene Valley Forest Preserve in Naperville.