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New trail signs will include detailed data for path users

(Photo by Chad Merda)

New trailhead signs are coming to all 134 miles of paved and natural surface paths located within the Forest Preserve District. 

The signs will have more information for path users, and the installation follows years of data collection for the District’s High Efficiency Trail Assessment Program. 

Operations department crews are installing 1,980 signs at 396 trail locations throughout Will County. 

“It is fantastic to see the project come to fruition,” said Cori Crawford, the Forest Preserve’s real estate and data supervisor, who is overseeing the project. “It is so exciting to see the trailhead signage in place after all the hours of collecting, interpreting and organizing the trail data.”

Measuring the paths

A team of Forest Preserve employees hit the trails a few years ago with something that looked like a jogging stroller but was really a sophisticated instrument designed to measure the paths.

The effort, which only a handful of governmental entities are implementing across the country, has led to new signs with valuable information for all trail users, especially those with disabilities.

The recording device in the stroller contained a series of sensors that recorded trail grade, cross slope (the change in elevation from side to side), distance and obstructions. Chronicling obstructions is important for anyone who cannot physically handle more challenging trails, Crawford said.

"We collected more information about our trails so people can make better decisions about venturing out on our paths," she said. "They'll know how steep a trail is and what type of surface it has and obstacles they might encounter."

For instance, someone with a small child or a person who just had knee replacement surgery may seek a flat, easy trail for a walk. Some people also want to know which trails have stairs, roots or other obstructions that stick out into the path. 

By listing the grade of each path, trail distances will be more accurate than they have been in the past, Crawford added. 

Sign components

Each new trailhead panel contains five sign components, including trail name, trail rules, emergency information, trail information and Forest Preserve logo. The trail sign includes the official trail name and segment.

“The trail segment describes what portion of the trail the user is entering,” Crawford said. “For example, Wauponsee Glacial Trail is divided into five segments, with one being Interstate 80 to Laraway Road and another being Laraway Road to Manhattan Road Access.”

Rule signs also have been updated. 

"The rule signs are designed to be easy to read with a constant set of icons in green for those activities that are allowed and in red for those activities that are prohibited,” Crawford said. "The emergency information sign is designed to stand out and contains trail hours and emergency and non-emergency phone numbers."

Now that the signs are being installed, Crawford expects they will be a popular addition to Forest Preserve trails for years to come.

“Path users will appreciate the level of detail this resource provides,” she said. “Whether they are looking for emergency contact information or the fine details about trail surfaces or grades, it’s all there and easy to find.”
 

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