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Thursday, October 23, 2008

New Madison County trail open

In the near future, Madison County Transit's new 9-mile Staunton-Worden Trail will be formally dedicated, but that hasn't stopped people from using the trail.

I haven't had a chance to ride the trail yet. But when I've had to travel to the Benld-Gillespie area for planning meetings for the Tour de Coal in recent weeks, I've noticed cyclists and walkers using the trail.

The formal dedication of the trail -- which is mostly asphalt with a small stretch of crushed limestone -- had been scheduled for Friday at the intersection of South Union and Sixth streets in Staunton, Ill., but the dedication has been postponed because of a forecast of cool, wet weather. No date has been set for the dedication.

However, an introduction of the trail for children still is on for 10:30 a.m. Saturday. All young people and parents with smaller children who wish to ride or walk on the trail are invited to gather at the South Water Tower Park in Staunton for this event.

A brief history of the trail and what was there before the trail will be presented, followed by a ride/walk on the trail. The distance you ride or walk is up to you, but the walk/ride will be limited to the trail segment between Sixth St. and Route 4, so that no road crossings are involved.
That is about 2 miles one way, which should burn some energy and get everyone ready for a free hot dog, chips and a drink back at the water tower at noon, compliments of the Staunton City Council.

The trail is built on former rights-of-way for the Illinois Traction System and the Chicago-Northwestern Railroad. The ITS system was an electric railroad that once connected St. Louis and Springfield, Ill.

MCT is now taking bids for a new trail that will connect Hamel and Worden, which will make it possible to ride on trails or designated bike routes all the way from the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge in St. Louis to Staunton. The long-term goal is to create a trail that will link St. Louis and Springfield.

Until the new trail is built, cyclists riding from St. Louis or Edwardsville can turn off the MCT Quercus Grove Trail at Staunton Road just south of Hamel, travel north on Staunton Road to Brakhane Road, turn right on Brakhane Road and ride to Worden. Once in Worden, turn left on Main Street, then turn right on Kell St. Stay on Kell St. until you get to the Staunton-Worden Trail trailhead, which on the east edge of town.

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