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Sunday, July 12, 2009

MCT dedicates new portions of Quercus Grove Trail

As of this weekend, cyclists now can ride on bike trails or designated on-road bicycle routes all the way from downtown St. Louis to Staunton, Ill. -- a one-way trip of 44.8 miles.

On Friday and Saturday, Madison County Transit dedicated two sections of the MCT Quercus Grove Trail, a section between Staunton and Worden on Friday and a section between Worden and Hamel on Saturday. The two new sections tie into an existing section of the MCT Quercus Grove Trail between Edwardsville and Hamel. Click on the image of the map to see details of the new sections of the trail.

Here's how you can ride from St. Louis to Staunton, a Macoupin County community best known among St. Louis-area cyclists as being the host city of the Tour de Donut bicycle race:
  • St. Louis Riverfront Trail, from the Laclede's Landing section of St. Louis to the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge. Distance: 11 miles.
  • Old Chain of Rocks Bridge and Chain of Rocks Road to the MCT Confluence Trail. Distance: 2.8 miles.
  • MCT Confluence Trail to the Lewis and Clark State Historic Site: 3.6 miles.
  • New Poag Road from the Lewis and Clark site to the MCT Goshen Trail in Edwardsville: Distance: 6.9 miles.
  • MCT Goshen Trail to the MCT Nickel Plate Trail. Distance: 1.25 miles.
  • MCT Nickel Plate Trail to MCT Quercus Grove Trail. Distance: 1.6 miles.
  • MCT Quercus Grove Trail to Staunton. Distance: 17.6 miles.
Generally speaking, it's an easy trek from St. Louis to Staunton. Using the route I plotted, the most significant hill is on New Poag Road on the northern edge of the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville campus. I don't think the hill is all that difficult, but if you want a more gradual climb with a few extra miles, you can turn south from New Poag Road onto the MCT Bluff Trail, turn east on the MCT Nature Trail, then turn north on the Nickel Plate Trail in Edwardsville to the Quercus Grove Trail.

North of Edwardsville, there's a hill on the Quercus Grove Trail after you cross Old Carpenter Road. After that, it's a pretty flat trek to Staunton.

The stretch between Hamel and Staunton has few trees, meaning there's little to block the wind. That's good if the wind's at your back. Not so good if that wind's in your face.

There are places near or or near the Quercus Grove Trail to grab a bite to eat or something to drink. The Springer's Creek Winery is located on the trail at Chapman Avenue in Edwardsville. Scotty's Route 66 Bar and Grill is along the trail in Hamel. The Yellow Dog Saloon is a couple of blocks west of the trail on Wall Street in Worden.

Just south of Staunton at Illinois Route 4 is Decamp Junction, which has the added attraction of a softball field that conjures up images of "Fields of Dreams" because the chain-link outfield fence is only a few feet away from farm fields.

Staunton has several bars and restaurants. The restaurants range from Hardee's to Italian and Chinese restaurants.

While the bicycle/pedestrian-only part of the trail ends at Sixth Street, the trail goes up Union Street to the Duda Garden. As I've written about before, a group of Staunton-area trail boosters are trying to develop the ITS Trail, which would start at Duda Garden and head up to Benld and tie into an existing short trail between Benld and Gillespie.

The long-term goal is to build trails through Macoupin and Sangamon counties that would link St. Louis and Springfield, Ill. The (Springfield) State Journal-Register recently wrote about the ITS Trail and its goal to boost economic and residential development in Staunton and nearby communities.

Madison County Transit, of course, deserves tons of credit for developing such an extensive system of trails on old railroad rights-of-way. But the people of the Staunton area also deserve credit. The community has embraced the Tour de Donut, and that has encouraged interest in bicycling in that community. On Saturday, more than 1,200 cyclists descended on Staunton for Tour de Donut, and people in that community know bicyclists can have a sizable economic impact on a community.

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