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Illinois hunting and fishing

Network of Springfield bike trails continues to evolve

June 05, 2011 at 08:58 PM

The State Journal-Register


There’s no doubt Springfield-area bike and hike trails are popular.

Almost immediately after the initial grading of the Sangamon Valley Trail last August, people starting walking on the gravel railroad bed.

The newest addition to Springfield’s collection of trails, the Sangamon Valley Trail, will be open soon from Centennial Park on Springfield’s far southwest side to Stuart Park on the northwest side.

There’s still work to do on the trail, but even with the barricades still up, people are using the SVT daily.

“I think there is a lot of demand,” says Tom Clark, president of the Springfield Bicycle Club.

“Before we had trails, the bike club would ride laps in Washington Park. Other than that, you would be on the road.”

Clark says it’s important to gain experience riding on roadways, but for people new to cycling, trails are a great place to start.

“For people who want to walk or bike, they can use the trail — no special experience is needed.”

And as pieces of the local bike trail puzzle begin to fall into place, bicyclists will someday have more opportunities to go farther and reach lightly traveled rural roads safely.

“The Sangamon Valley Trail will be officially open soon — in a month or so,” Clark says. “It will be another big plus. Eventually, it will be a new way to get out of town to the south or to the north.”

A future installment is on the drawing board to take the trail north across the Sangamon River.

“The most exciting thing coming up will be the extension of the Sangamon Valley Trail to the north,” says Karl Kohlrus, past president of the Springfield Bicycle Club. “It would give us access to out of town and across the river and to Athens without having to ride on Illinois Route 29. That’s the best news.”

Illinois hunting and fishing

That stretch features a railroad trestle spanning the Sangamon River, high above the water.

“The trestle is 900 feet long and is probably about 50 feet above the river,” Kohlrus says. “You are up there pretty high. You’d never know you are three miles outside of Springfield.”

Kohlrus says that segment remains in the planning stages.

“They’ve done some engineering, but there is no money for construction,” he says. “But the bridge is in great shape.”

The right-of-way for the Sangamon Valley Trail also continues south of Centennial Park.

“And someday it may be a new way to get to the Chatham area and get bicyclists to roads in the country that have lower traffic volume and lower stress,” Clark says.

Into the future

Those additions may be years off, but cyclists can see the plan — and the opportunities — coming together.

“I think the paved recreational trails we have in the area really add to the quality of life,” Clark says. “The trails are there for you whether you bike or walk or run or if you just like to look at nature.”

Clark says he used to ride all the time on the Lost Bridge Trail linking Springfield and Rochester.

“I’m on the west side now, and I’m glad the Interurban Trail is in one piece,” he says.

The history of the Interurban Trail has been a colorful one.

It took years to complete. Then, shortly after it opened, the MacArthur Boulevard extension project threatened to cut the trail in half, leaving no way to easily get from Springfield to Chatham.

SBC members Lynn Miller and Bill Donels worked with local transportation authorities and government entities to formulate a solution.

The trail now meanders around the Legacy Pointe development — home to the new Scheels store — but it remains intact.

“I saw a blue heron and two muskrats on the Interurban Trail recently,” Clark says. “A big muskrat and little muskrat slowly crossed the trail in front of me.”

After passing under Interstate 72, the trail goes south toward Lake Springfield.

“You can see turtles sitting on the branches just out of the water,” he says. “Even if you are riding a bike at 15 miles per hour, you can still see some nature.”

Other trails are in the planning stages, including a path linking Sherman and Williamsville.


Lost Bridge Trail
Length: Five miles
Route: Illinois Department of Transportation to Rochester. Much of the trail parallels Illinois 29.

Directions and parking: There are parking lots at both ends of the trail. The Springfield portion of the trail starts just off the parking lot at the south end of the IDOT building, 2300 S. Dirksen Parkway. Signs point the way to the parking area. In Rochester, a parking lot is at Illinois 29 and West Main Street.
Features: Tree canopied trail that crosses the South Fork of the Sangamon River. There is easy access to Rochester’s Community Park.

Wabash Trail
Length: 2.1 miles
Route: The east trailhead is near Wabash Avenue and South Park Avenue near the Sonic Drive-In, 1312 Wabash Ave. The trail goes west across Chatham Road and Veterans Parkway to Robbins Road.

Directions and parking: To get to the east trailhead, turn south off Wabash Avenue at South Park Avenue. Go briefly west on North Street to the parking area near Sonic. At the west end, B.J. Grand Salon & Spa, 3300 Robbins Road, has provided parking spaces in its lot closest to the trail. The spaces are clearly marked with signs.
Features: Urban trail that passes through neighborhoods and crosses Veterans Parkway. Vredenburgh Park is adjacent to the trail near the Veterans Parkway crossing. The park contains ball fields, open space and a playground. Picnic tables and outdoor seating at Sonic are available at the east trailhead.

Interurban Trail
Length: 7.9 miles
Route: From Junction Circle/West North Street and MacArthur Boulevard, just south of the intersection of Wabash Avenue and MacArthur Boulevard to Walnut Street in Chatham. An extension to Spruce Street and South Main Street in Chatham adds .4 mile.

Directions and parking: The most convenient parking is at the Wabash Trail parking area. Add .4 miles to your trip if you park there. Parking lots are available at two additional points along the trail, including at Hazel Dell Road just before the trail passes beneath Interstate 72 and near Woodside Road and Iron Bridge Road near the entrance to Pedigo Sod and Landscaping, 5781 Pedigo Lane.
Features: The trail offers commuter possibilities for cyclists and a round-trip ride of sufficient length to provide a decent workout. The trail passes from urban to rural settings and back, crossing Lake Springfield and passing Piper Glen Golf & Social Club. There is access to mountain bike trails in the Lick Creek Wildlife Preserve adjacent to Lake Springfield.
Additional mileage: Ride from the Wabash Trail west trailhead at Robbins Road to the Interurban Trail south trailhead at Walnut Street in Chatham and rack up 10.4 miles.

Sangamon Valley Trail
Coming soon: The Sangamon Valley Trail is not officially open yet.
Distance: 5.5 miles
Route: Centennial Park at Hedley Road to Stuart Park

Directions and parking: Centennial Park is north of Wabash Avenue near the intersection with Interstate 72. Look for the large, earthen sledding hill. A parking lot is under construction at the trailhead on Hedley Road.
Features: Links two city parks. The SVT is the first phase of a longer north-south trail system.

Chris Young can be reached at 788-1528.

Illinois hunting and fishing

Map courtesy of The Springfield-Sangamon County Regional Planning Commission.

Copyright 2011 The State Journal-Register. Some rights reserved<


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