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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Trailblazing in Southwestern Illinois

The other day while I driving up to Gillespie, Ill., for an organizational meeting for the 2008 Tour de Coal, I noticed an encouraging sign.

Madison County Transit has started work on a 5.5-mile trail between Staunton and Worden. Work still is in the very early stages, but barricades have been placed on where the trail will intersect roads between Staunton and Worden.

MCT has received state grants for that trail as a well as a trail between Hamel and Staunton. When those are completed, cyclists will be able to ride on a trail or bike lane from the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge to the Macoupin County line.

Once in Staunton, the home of the original Tour de Donut bicycle "race," the ITS Trail Committee is still working on plans to build a trail that will link Staunton with an existing trail between Benld and Gillespie. As mentioned here before, the long-term goal is to build bicycle trails that will link St. Louis and Springfield.

Below is a video shot for the public access cable TV channel in Staunton. It's an interview with Dr. Poonam Jain, president of the ITS Trail Committee's board, and Jarid Ott, the committee's executive director:

It appears the movement to build more bicycle trails in Southwestern Illinois is gaining momentum.

My friends at GEARS, also known as the Greenville Eating and Riding Club, and the Kingsbury Park District, which covers much of Bond County, are looking into the possibility of building bicycle trails in that rural county.

For those of you unfamiliar with Southwestern Illinois geography, Bond County is the county immediately east of Madison County roughly bisected by Interstate 70. Many Bond County residents are familiar with the MCT trail system.

Dr. Tracy Hall, who created the GEARS group and is a longtime member of the Belleville Area Bicycling and Eating Society, reports many members of her group attended a park district meeting Monday night to express their support of trails in the Greenville area.

GEARS and the park district have a lot of homework to do before trails become reality in that county, but at least they have good resources nearby to get information on how to get money for trails.

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