Building a Grassroots Coalition to Improve the Des Plaines River Trail - Metropolitan Planning Council

Skip to main content

Building a Grassroots Coalition to Improve the Des Plaines River Trail

The Des Plaines River Trail now has a Friends group, brought together by the Active Transportation Alliance.

Active Transportation Alliance

Members of the Friends of the Des Plaines River Trail at their kickoff event in Summer 2018

Imagine a seamlessly connected network of Chicagoland trails that allows you to hop from one trail to another without confronting hectic intersections or traveling several miles on a busy street with traffic whipping by.

That’s the vision of the Active Transportation Alliance’s new Trail Connect Chicagoland campaign, which includes a focus on improving and extending the Des Plaines River Trail.

Launched in early 2018, Trail Connect Chicagoland mobilizes residents and provides them with the tools and resources needed to successfully push for improving trails in their communities.

A seamlessly-connected, low-stress, and equitable regional trail network would mean that every Chicagoland resident can walk and bike for transportation and recreation.

The Des Plaines River Trail is a popular multi-use trail extending from the Illinois and Wisconsin border south into central Cook County. While the trail is a great community asset, the south end, between Touhy Avenue and North Avenue, presents a laundry list of barriers that prevent people from accessing and enjoying it.   

Many of the problems are caused by flooding and erosion from the Des Plaines River, which the trail follows. But other issues exist as well. People are frequently forced to cross four-or-more-lane arterial streets as they’re following the trail and they face a lack of amenities along the trail like restrooms, drinking fountains, signage, and benches.

And accessing the trail from nearby communities means navigating a treacherous obstacle course of busy streets and hairy intersections with little in the way of sidewalks, crosswalks and bike trails.

Jeremy Riel (flickr)

Along the Des Plaines River Trail

The good news is that engineering efforts are currently underway exploring improvements. Solutions could include providing better striping at intersections and midblock crossings, as well as improving tunnels and bridges or creating new ones. There’s also a need to improve the trail’s amenities, as well as create bike lanes/side paths and improve the sidewalk infrastructure that allows people from local communities to access the trail.  

To fight for these improvements and others, Active Trans brought together local trail advocates to launch a Friends of the Des Plaines River & Trail group.

This group has several aims:

  • Raise awareness of the trail and the needed improvements to neighbors and elected officials.
  • Host community events near the trail to gather input and raise funds.
  • Monitor conditions of the trail and river.
  • Inform people of recent improvements and activities.

The group also may create reports and planning documents showcasing the benefits the trail could bring to surrounding communities.

Since its first meeting late last summer, the group has been active on social media, making fellow community members aware of the wonderful amenity in their own backyard, organizing community events and laying the foundation for a successful organization moving forward.

Please contact Matt Gomez or visit the Friends of the Des Plaines River Trail’s Facebook page to learn more about how you can help improve the Des Plaines River Trail.

----------------------

Matt Gomez is a Trail Advocacy Manager at Active Transportation Alliance. He can be reached at matt@activetrans.org or (312) 216-0474

Comments

No comments

MPC on Twitter

Follow us on Twitter »


Stay in the loop!

MPC's Regionalist newsletter keeps you up to date with our work and our upcoming events.

Subscribe to Regionalist


Most popular news

Browse by date »

This page can be found online at http://www.metroplanning.org/news/8711

Metropolitan Planning Council 140 S. Dearborn St.
Suite 1400
Chicago, Ill. 60603
312 922 5616 info@metroplanning.org

Sign up for newsletter and alerts »

Shaping a more equitable, sustainable and prosperous greater Chicago region

For more than 80 years, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) has made the Chicago region a better place to live and work by partnering with businesses, communities and governments to address the area's toughest planning and development challenges. MPC works to solve today's urgent problems while consistently thinking ahead to prepare the region for the needs of tomorrow. Read more about our work »

Donate »