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Making connections: Forest Preserve's countywide trail network continues to grow

Plum Creek Greenway Trail
(Photo by Anthony Schalk)

Inch by inch, foot by foot, mile by mile, the Forest Preserve District’s 135-mile trail system continues to grow throughout Will County. 

On Thursday, Dec. 7, the Forest Preserve’s operations committee took action that will pave the way for three future path extensions.

The three projects are: 

Plum Creek Greenway Trail, Crete Township

Professional construction oversight service proposals are being sought for phase three engineering of the Plum Creek Greenway Trail. The project includes the addition of approximately 1 mile of asphalt trail, a 400-foot bridge over Plum Creek, and the conversion of the crushed limestone trail at Plum Valley Preserve – Burville Road Access into an asphalt trail. Once completed, the trail extension and a short street route will link Plum Valley Preserve to Goodenow Grove Nature Preserve. Construction bids will be sought in 2024. 

DuPage River Trail – Weber Road Connection, DuPage Township

Phase one engineering proposals are being sought to extend the DuPage River Trail along Weber Road from Naperville to Bolingbrook. The new trail section would travel through DuPage River Park in Naperville and Indian Boundary Park in Bolingbrook to an existing section of the DuPage River Trail owned by the Bolingbrook Park District. The trail travels east to the Forest Preserve’s Hidden Lakes Trout Farm and Whalon Lake preserves and north to the DuPage Forest Preserve District's Greene Valley Preserve. Partners in this project would be the City of Naperville, Naperville Park District and Bolingbrook Park District.

Wolf’s Crossing – Normantown Trail Connection, Wheatland Township

Phase one engineering proposals are being sought for Wolf's Crossing Road trail improvements. The new trails would stretch along the north side of Wolf’s Crossing Road west from Carls Drive and on the south side of Wolf's Crossing Road east from Carls Drive. The trail extension would allow path users to head west to Hoffman Boulevard to connect to a system of Aurora trails, or east to go south on the Forest Preserve’s Normantown Trail or east on the Naperville Park District’s Tallgrass Greenway Trail. This trail would be built in partnership with the City of Aurora and Wheatland Township Road District. In April 2023, the Forest Preserve was awarded a grant of up to $760,000 by the Illinois Commerce Commission to assist with the construction of an at-grade pedestrian railroad crossing for this project.   

Phase one engineering for the Weber Road and Wolf's Crossing trails projects could last a year or two as engineers study if the paths are feasible and where and how they should be built if the project goes forward. Funding for trail projects comes from a variety of sources including Forest Preserve funds, federal grants, donations and contributions from partner agencies. 

Bringing everyone together

Some of these short-term projects are part of long-range goals that will be worked on for years, and even decades, to come, said Colleen Novander, director of the Forest Preserve’s planning and land preservation department. For instance, the Plum Valley connection to Goodenow Grove is part of a much larger goal of connecting to Beecher to the south and Cook County to the north. 

“It’s like putting together a puzzle,” Novander said. “You put in a piece when you can and take advantage when there are opportunities to make connections."

And for some projects, the Forest Preserve is the umbrella agency that can bring together municipalities, townships and park districts to get a plan in place. 

“We’re the facilitators of trails within Will County," Novander said. “When we don’t own the property, we bring everyone together to create partnerships to make the connections that other agencies can’t do because they’re limited to their own land. And our goal is to improve trails throughout the county.”

Other trail projects also in the works are:

Lake Chaminwood Trail: A connection will be built linking the loop trail around Lake Chaminwood Preserve in Channahon Township to the state-owned I&M Canal Trail west of Interstate 55. The project, which will include a bridge over the I&M path, is set to be completed by June 2024.

Rock Run Greenway Trail: The existing sidewalk along Essington Road that is part of the Rock Run Greenway Trail route in Joliet will be converted into a 10-foot-wide asphalt trail. The new chunk of trail will stretch from Ingalls Street north to where the trail cuts east into Theodore Marsh. This work is scheduled to be completed in June 2024.

Wauponsee Glacial Trail: A new connection to the Wauponsee Glacial Trail will be built by the Village of Manhattan in Manhattan Township. The path will extend from an existing sidewalk along Marion Street southwest to the Wauponsee. A second connection being built by the Forest Preserve District will travel from an existing trail in in Wauponsee Park in the Leighlinbridge subdivision northeast to the Wauponsee trail.

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