Final connection of Des Plaines River Trail nears

Work to close gap on Des Plaines River Trail well underway

  • A welder works on a retaining wall as part of a project to close the last gap on the Des Plaines River Trail.

      A welder works on a retaining wall as part of a project to close the last gap on the Des Plaines River Trail. Mick Zawislak | Staff Photographer

  • Installation of a 500-foot long sheet piling wall is a key part of a project to close the last gap in the Des Plaines River Trail.

      Installation of a 500-foot long sheet piling wall is a key part of a project to close the last gap in the Des Plaines River Trail. Mick Zawislak | Staff Photographer

  • Construction is well underway on the last gap in the 31-mile  Des Plaines River Trail. A public opening is expected Oct. 1.

      Construction is well underway on the last gap in the 31-mile Des Plaines River Trail. A public opening is expected Oct. 1. Mick Zawislak | Staff Photographer

  • Gap in the trail

    Graphic: Gap in the trail (click image to open)

 
 
Updated 8/1/2015 11:03 AM

On a beautiful Friday morning, biking trumped the gym for Judy Levin of Riverwoods, who with her sister took to the Des Plaines River Trail for a lengthy trek north to Independence Grove Forest Preserve.

But at a spot behind the former Cubby Bear restaurant in Lincolnshire, the trail ends and the scenic journey derails as trail users must detour to busy Milwaukee Avenue before reconnecting about a third of a mile away. Riders have dealt with the interruption for years, but work is well underway to plug this last gap in a 31-mile system.

 

"I live half a mile away, and I've been waiting 28 years for them to finish," the trail, Levin said. "I can't wait."

Levin's sister, Gayle Bereskin, who is visiting from Denver, admits to being spoiled by the recreational opportunities there, but she enjoys the Des Plaines Trail.

"It's a beautiful ride," she said. "It's exciting it's finally going to be done."

That sentiment is shared by those who spent decades negotiating for these last 4.4 acres on the west river bank that will allow the Lake County Forest Preserve District to build a 1,600-foot connection. Opening day is planned for Oct. 1.

"There's a level of excitement I've not felt before in the miles and miles of trails we've built," said Randy Seebach, director of planning and land preservation.

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The first hurdle was cleared a year ago, when Guz Boznos, owner of the Par-King Skill Course agreed after 20 years of overtures to sell the property. The sale closed in December. Plans were drawn, permits secured, a rough path carved through the woods and prep work done to support heavy machinery on a precarious stretch. Heavy rain caused the river to rise three feet, delaying the key work nearly two weeks. But this past Monday, a construction crew maneuvered an enormous pile driver into place and the installation of 500 feet of sheet piling to stabilize the trail began.

"The first big step is the sheet piling wall," said Jeff Sloot, planning manager for the forest district. "Parts of this stretch are so narrow, we needed a wall to keep back the river. It was absolutely necessary."

Because of the tight fit, the trail in that section will be about 8 feet wide, rather than the preferred 12 feet for a regional trail.

By next Wednesday, all the sheeting is expected to be in place and a cap installed on top to provide an attachment point for a decorative fence. The $839,138 contract includes installation of 1,700 feet of decorative fence on the west side of the trail and gates on either side of the trail at one point to allow Boznos to move equipment between properties he still owns.

"Yes, it's only 1,600 feet, but there were some challenges we have to overcome," Seebach said of this last section. Other trails have particular construction issues, but this is "probably the most complicated for such a short distance," he added.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Because of the narrow area, trucks filled with asphalt will have to back down the path one at a time rather than in a series as generally seen in paving projects.

Seebach said the first section of the Des Plaines River Trail was completed in 1980. It dead ends at Russell Road on the north and plans are in the works to connect it on the east to the Robert McClory Trail and on the west with the Millennium Trail. And though there is much more trail work to be done in the county, this section has special significance, Seebach said.

"It sort of feels like the end of an era -- 35 years."

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