Did You Know?
Community spirit pushes the Great Western Trail forward
The Great Western Trail, a 30-mile path tracing the legacy of the Chicago Great Western Railway, stands as a testament to advocacy and perseverance.
Broken into two segments due to geographical hurdles, this trail is a labor of love, continuously championed by the Friends of the Great Western Trail.
The newer of the two sections is 12.7 miles and runs between Villa Park and West Chicago in DuPage County,.
The older, western section is 18 miles long and runs between western St. Charles in Kane County and Sycamore in DeKalb County.
There are no plans to connect the two sections of the trail because the DuPage County Airport stands between them.
But the Friends of the Great Western Trail continue to advocate for the safety and connectivity of the trail.
The all-volunteer group is working with Kane County and the City of St. Charles to expand the Kane County section Great Western Trail east from LeRoy Oakes Forest Preserve to Randall Road.
The group is also developing an on-the-road route with signs connecting the trail segments in DuPage County and Kane County.
In addition, the Friends of the Great Western Trail is advocating for safety improvements at street crossings along the trail after two people biking were injured trying to cross four-lane County Farm Road. The group is currently working with the DuPage County Board and the county department of transportation to make these crossings safer for people walking and biking.
With incremental improvements underway, it’s clear the advocacy efforts have paid off.
Don Kirchenberg, chairman of the Friends of the Great Western Trail, emphasized that collaboration and communication have been crucial to improving the safety and connectivity of the trail.
Since he started the Friends of the Great Western Trail in 1995, the group regularly reaches out and keeps in touch with government officials, nonprofit groups and community leaders about enhancing the trail.
Kirchenberg offered advice to advocates who want to improve their local trails: “Talk to elected officials in your areas of concern. Attend a meeting and introduce yourself. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by their welcoming response.”
Photos courtesy of Friends of the Great Western Trail.
During a recent webinar hosted by Active Transportation Alliance, advocates for several west suburban trails shared how communication, collaboration, resourcefulness, and tenacity have been key to successfully advocating for the creation, expansion and maintenance of these trails. This blog post was drawn from the webinar.
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