Des Plaines River Trail Now Complete
October 22, 2015 05:40 PM
The wait is over! Construction on the final section of the Des Plaines River Trail is complete. Beginning Friday, October 23, this last section of trail will open to the public, marking a historic milestone for the Lake County Forest Preserves. Trail users can now enjoy a 31.4-mile uninterrupted north/south venture through Lake County.
This fulfills a vision 54 years in the making for an unbroken greenway along the Des Plaines River that includes a contiguous trail spanning the entire length of the county––from Russell Road just south of the Wisconsin border to Lake Cook Road.
“I’m thrilled to finally announce ‘The trail is complete!’” said Ann Maine, President of the Lake County Forest Preserves. “I have received many calls over the past two decades, especially from people at the south end of the county, who were anxious to have easy, safe access to the rest of our incredible trail system,” added Maine, who represents the District where the new section is located. “I know they can't wait to walk, bike, hike or ride this county treasure.”
Maine said preservation of the Des Plaines River Trail and Greenway has been a key priority since the agency's founding. “It has been shaped and molded by skilled land managers and trail architects, and through countless hours of hard work, commitment and support from Lake County residents, businesses and community partners.”
A Vision Realized
In the early 1960s, members of the first Lake County Forest Preserve Board of Commissioners expressed the need for a greenway to protect the Des Plaines River floodplain and to preserve land along the river corridor as a nature preserve. Their vision was formalized in a June 25, 1963, ordinance that “designated a site along the Des Plaines River” for the purpose of “creating a Forest Preserve in and along and adjoining the Des Plaines River.”
In the mid-1970s, agency planners and landscape architects began to sketch out designs for a multi-purpose recreational trail system that would follow the river’s edge through the greenway and span the entire length of the county.
Closing the Gap
The trail grew section-by-section through the decades as land purchases and easements were negotiated and funding became available for trail construction. Over the past 54 years, 142 acquisitions totaling 4,910.60 acres were required to piece together the land needed to build the trail. The first land purchase was made on March 9, 1961, at Van Patten Woods Forest Preserve in Wadsworth.
Eventually the final piece of land needed to close the gap was a 1,600-foot-long section between Riverside Road and Estonian Lane in Lincolnshire, about which negotiations stretched 20 years. The 4.4-acre strip was purchased on December 15, 2014, and built into a trail that will open to the public on Friday, October 23. Prior to that purchase, trail users had to circumvent the gap by heading west to Milwaukee Avenue and then dropping back in where the trail resumed.
A Lake County Treasure
As the trail grew, it became a valued recreational resource for hikers, bicyclists, dog walkers, runners, horseback riders, and cross-country skiers from all reaches of the county. Six canoe launches provide river access for a variety of water activities, including shoreline fishing, canoeing and kayaking. Some launches also have connections to the Des Plaines River Trail.
The protected river corridor provides valuable wildlife habitat, natural flood management and serves as a vital throughway for wildlife traversing a developed county in search of food, water and habitat. The Des Plaines River Trail and Greenway parallels its namesake river as it winds through 12 forest preserves and protects more than 76 percent of the river in Lake County. Many preserves along the Des Plaines River Trail and Greenway provide trail access and parking. Mile marker 0 is located in Van Patten Woods in Wadsworth at the Russell Road parking lot.
Mile marker 31.4 is located at Lake Cook Road, Lake County’s southernmost border. A trail bridge over Lake Cook Road provides access to the Cook County Forest Preserve trail system where the Des Plaines River Trail continues its journey. The Cook County portion of the Des Plaines River Trail is primarily unpaved and runs from Potawatomi Woods to River Forest in central Cook County.
Media Contact: Randy Seebach, Director of Planning and Land Preservation, rseebach@LCFPD.org, 847-968-3262