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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Effingham County wants bicycle trails

Effingham County, Ill., has two of the nation's best high school nicknames. Why shouldn't it have a first-class bicycle trail system as well?

In recent days, I've written about St. Louis' efforts to become a more bicycle-friendly, but as a small-town boy myself, I like to give credit to smaller communities that are trying to provide more opportunities for cyclists and pedestrians.

Today, I turn your attention to the efforts of Trail Recreation Effingham County (TREC) to develop a system of trails in the Central Illinois county.

Besides being the home of the Effingham High School Flaming Hearts, the city of Effingham is probably best known to travelers on Interstates 57 and 70 for its truck stops and its 198-foot-high cross. TREC is trying to make the city and county known for its bicycle trails.

Work already has started on the Calico Trail on the western edge of Effingham.. Future phases of the system would connect Effingham with Lake Sara, located just west of the city. In the long term, the system is intended to connect Effingham with other communities such as Dieterich, Altamont, Beecher City, Mason and Teutopolis -- the home of the Teutopolis High School Wooden Shoes. You can see the proposed trail system on this PDF map.

To pay for the trail system, TREC hopes to obtain grants from the Federal Highway Administration and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and solicit local cash or in-kind contributions to be used as the 10 percent match for the grants.

TREC already has the backing of the Effingham County Board, the city of Effingham and several other towns, businesses and individuals. As with any other trails project, there are concerns. Some Kingwood subdivision residents, while they are in favor of the trail in general, are opposed to a potential route through the subdivision. According to the Effingham Daily News, the concerns are similar to those of trail opponents elsewhere:
• Fear of decreased property values.
• An increase in litter.
• Increased danger of property damage and theft.
• Traffic and parking concerns along their one-lane street.
• Danger to children exposed to criminal activity.

The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation has a nice summary of studies that debunk many of the concerns. Closer to Effingham, Madison County Transit has found trails have been an asset to subdivisions.

"There was a time when residents saw a trail as an invasion of privacy," Jerry Kane, the managing director of MCT, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 2006. "Now people see it as a huge improvement in the quality of life. They want connections to trails. They want to live near trails."

If TREC succeeds in its goal to develop trails in Effingham County, perhaps it will inspire other smaller communities to attempt similar projects.

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Roger 2 comments links to this post 1:07 AM

thanks Roger!
Appreciate the news. More info here than in the Effingham newspaper!
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