Sections of Normantown Road are being whittled away to create a hiking and biking path in the northwest corner of Will County.
For more than a decade, portions of the underutilized road have been converted into a trail that travels from Naperville south to Plainfield.
And little by little, small patches are being connected together into what will ultimately be a 4.7-mile path from Wolfs Crossing Road south to 135th Street. The Forest Preserve’s Board of Commissioners will vote March 8 on an engineering contract for a small section of trail development from 111th Street to 119th Street. Work on this 0.85-mile chunk of trail could begin this fall.
Converting a road into a trail is just one of the many ways the Forest Preserve District and its partners are working to get more trails and trail connections throughout Will County, said Ralph Schultz, the Forest Preserve's chief operating officer.
"It's a rare opportunity to convert a roadway into a trail," he said. "The Normantown Trail is another example of how we can reimagine an existing transportation corridor for ongoing public benefit, just as we have done with the Old Plank Road Trail, Wauponsee Glacial Trail and I&M Canal Trail in past years."
Much of the Normantown Trail has already been constructed and, in most areas, the road has been vacated, or given up, by its municipal owner and trimmed down to a 10-foot wide path. Here is a summary of the trail divided into three sections:
Wolfs Crossing Road to 111th Street: Most of this 1.5-mile segment is in place, and was built by the Forest Preserve District, the City of Naperville and two developers that are constructing subdivisions east of the road. Once a final section of trail has been built by a third developer, this segment will be donated to the Forest Preserve District and the road will be vacated by the city. The transfer could happen this year.
111th Street to 119th Street: Engineering will be underway soon on this 0.85-mile stretch of path that is being tackled by the Forest Preserve District. Trail construction will involve removing 6-foot sections of the roadway on both sides and paving a 10-foot wide path in the center. Trail sides will be shored up with dirt. Another 0.15-mile section of this trail segment will remain as a shared-use road so vehicles can continue to access Rockwell Lane from 119th Street.
119th Street to 135th Street: This 2.2-mile section of the Normantown Trail is being developed by the Village of Plainfield and the Plainfield Park District. From 119th south to the Normantown Equestrian Center, the path will be a shared roadway with vehicles. South of the equestrian center, the trail will once again be reserved for bikers and walkers/runners. Some of this trail segment uses converted sections of Normantown Road, while other portions take advantage of utility corridors leading to 135th Street.
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Once all of the pieces are in place, the Normantown Road Trail will link two forest preserves – Vermont Cemetery, located south of Wolfs Crossing Road, and Wolf Creek Preserve, located south of 111th Street. The trail also will connect to the Tallgrass Greenway Trail, the Village of Plainfield’s internal bike trail network, the DuPage River Trail in Will and DuPage counties, the Virgil Gilman Trail in Kane County and the Grand Illinois Trail.
Normantown Trail discussions began in the mid-2000s when Naperville officials decided to vacate the under-utilized Normantown Road from Wolfs Crossing Road to just south of 111th Street. Because this corridor connected the Forest Preserve’s Vermont Cemetery to Wolf Creek Preserve, the Forest Preserve District worked with Naperville and Plainfield to get the trail moving.
"Connecting communities and open space takes time, coordination and great partnerships," said Forest Preserve Board President Suzanne Hart. "We're fortunate to be able to work with the village and park district to see the Normantown Trail concept become a reality."
Plainfield Mayor Michael Collins said the village and the Forest Preserve have the same goal.
"The Forest Preserve District of Will County shares the village's commitment to improving the pathway and trail systems throughout Plainfield," he said. "We're thrilled that our partnership has led to the development of the Normantown Trail, which will provide an important link to other regional trails."
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