State Route 130 has a new sign just south of Charleston (above). We were so stoked to see it yesterday, announcing to passersby the fantastic hiking & trail running experience at Grand Prairie Friends' Warbler Ridge, designed and built by Illinois Trail Corps.
We wouldn't run Illinois Trail Corps if we didn't think it made a difference in our mission to connect everyone in Illinois to non-motorized trails, and in the communities where we've worked. That sign, approved and installed by IDOT, made us feel like we're making a difference in the state, too.
We were back in Charleston to begin finding routes for a couple loops within the Warbler Ridge trail system. Trail users prefer loops to out & back experiences, and Grand Prairie Friends who own and manage Warbler Ridge love the trail we and our Americorps NCCC team built for them (it's holding up great, by the way). They want more.
An approximately 1-mile loop at the southern end of the current trail will offer hikers and runners hundreds of feet of climbing on its way up, and down, and up, and down, and up to a pioneers' graveyard. A loop at the northern end offers people who enter there a similar vertical challenge, exploring the ridges west of the parking area. The loops offer ridge-top views of oaks, shag bark hickory and groves of sycamore at the bottom of vertigo-inducing plunges. It's so beautiful, and so fun.
Trails for Illinois is in the middle of reinventing itself. We've done good work with a paid executive director, but it's been hard to sustain that. Our board, which has some outstanding talent, is moving towards a coalition model that can coalesce the needs of trails and trail groups statewide into an actionable platform that we can take to Springfield and Washington, DC. We've been working on this since October 2016, and all of us feel good and energized by working more broadly and, we think, more effectively.
But Illinois Trail Corps continues as a signature program. Every year, we can measure our impact in actual miles of trail built, improved, repaired and maintained, as well as volunteers trained and engaged as trail builders. And land trusts, park districts, communities and agencies can benefit from those trails for the price of a 5-yr old Prius.
Going forward, we'll continue to make a difference on our trails, in our towns, and in our state. May your home be your trailhead.