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Illinois Parks & Recreation
November / December 1995 • Volume 26, Number 6

Our Natural Resources
Our Natural Resources
The Grand Illinois Trail
by George Bellovics

Grand, as defined in The American Heritage Dictionary, Second Edition, means "having higher rank than others of the same category. "The fourth definition tells us that grant denotes "large, impressive in size, scope or intent" Finally, the fifth and seventh definitions inform us that grand can also mean "of a rich and sumptuous nature," "wonderful or terrific."

The Grand Illinois Trail is all of the definitions in one. The trail itself elevates the significance of participating trails, creates a large, impressive trail system in size, scope and intent; has the diversity of experience which are of a rich and sumptuous nature and, of course, is wonderful and terrific!

Currently there is an unprecedented long-distance trail system evolving in Illinois known as the Grand Illinois Trail. This system of existing and developing trails is being facilitated by a multitude of partnerships between public and private interests in northern Illinois.

The Department of Natural Resources first introduced the Grand Trail as a chapter in the first public draft of the State Trails Plan in the spring of 1994. The plan cites the growing trend in America of long-distance trail and greenway networks providing for multiple recreational opportunities, economic and community revitalization, preservation of community character and an awareness of cultural roots. Response to the plan was considerable and many recommendations were incorporated into the Final Draft State Trail Plan published in the spring of 1995.

Communities across northern Illinois have shared in the experience that trails have to offer and the wonder of inclusion. Trails offer all ages opportunity to recreate. Truly, trails which connect with other trails also unite people to places, neighborhoods to town centers, cities to countrysides to other cities and along the way become a linear community in of itself.

The Grand Illinois Trail will be a priority for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The Department's role in the development and completion of the Grand Illinois Trail will be a proactive one where linkages are needed most.

The Department will provide opportunities for jurisdictions to cost-share acquisition or development of trails and their amenities.

Technical assistance in providing trail planning and analysis, facilitating conceptual planning and providing advocacy and technical expertise during board meetings, public hearings or constituency groups will be forthcoming to those who have the need. The Department can also provide strategic land acquisition for jurisdictions otherwise unable to acquire rights of way but are willing to develop, operate and maintain trail segments.

Facilitating discussion, analyzing issues, seeking out and resolving concern will help clear the way toward success. In time, these linkages will fulfill the Grand Illinois Trail and be the catalyst for other trails to connect.

The Grand Illinois Trail project will ambitiously be working toward its final goal of completion and along the way, small steps can be taken in your area to help the journey be a fruitful one. Ideas or concepts about trails can be discussed in open forums with the community and civic leaders with these suggestions in mind.
• Trail development, especially long-distance networks, are a reality now and into the future.
• This is the time to proceed with planning connections, linking communities and broadening alternatives for transportation and recreation.

Illinois Parks & Recreation • November/December 1995 • 53


54 ¦ Illinois Parks & Recreation November/December 1995

• Get involved in solving the links in the chain. Be proactive in resolving conflicts which may preclude or interrupt completion of the Grand Illinois Trail.
• Let's work together as a public/private and state/local partnership with common goals to achieve the Grand Illinois Trail.
• Make it a priority to complete the Grand Illinois Trail by the year 2000.

Communication will be the cornerstone in making progress. And so as the lesson of inclusion is learned for trails which exist today, our inclusion of concerns in planning trails for tomorrow must also be learned. Diversity of interests are sometimes thought of as a roadblock toward progress. Yet if we try our utmost to listen, understand and acknowledge the issues at hand, the answers will guide us toward celebrating completion of the Grand Illinois Trail.

For more information about the Grand Illinois Trail—technical or other assistance—please contact:

George Bellovics
Illinois Department of Natural Resources
Division of Planning
Grand Illinois Trail Project
524 S. Second Street
Springfield, IL 62701-1787

George Bellovics is a site planning specialist for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the Division of Planning.

Grand Illinois Trail Forum
At a forum held in August of this year regarding the Grand Illinois Trail, more than 150 potential partners—including representatives from park districts, tourism, preservation, transportation and trail user groups—- gathered to meet the challenge set by the Department of Natural Resources of completing the Grand Illinois Trail by the year 2000.

"The 475-mile loop provides a pathway for local residents, as well as visitors, to walk and cycle into the landscape and experience Northern Illinois' natural and historic resources," said Natural Resource Director Brent Manning, speaking at the forum. "Together, we can develop something truly unique for our citizens and our children—something our communities and state can be proud of."

The Grand Illinois Trail uses many existing and planned trial initiatives, including the Department's historic I&M and Hennepin canals, the Great River Trail, the Pecatonica Prairie Path, Long Prairie Trail, the North Shore Bike Path, the Lakefront Bike Path and the Centennial Trail, and many local road corridors.

Secondary loops provide additional options along the Des Plaines, Fox and Rock rivers and Chicago's southside and include the Prairie Trail, Fox River Trail, Illinois Prairie Path, Des Plaines River Trail and the Old Plank Road TraiI. Aproposed spur trail leads to the Joliet Arsenal, the proposed Midewin National Grassland.

Illinois Parks & Recreation ¦ November/December 1995 • 55

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