Three miles of paved trail will link more Chicago residents to larger Forest Preserve trail system
The Forest Preserves of Cook County (FPCC) today marked the beginning of a project to extend the North Branch Trail with a groundbreaking ceremony at Thaddeaus S. “Ted” Lechowicz Woods in Chicago.
The first 1.8 mile segment will extend south from Caldwell and Devon Avenues in Chicago to Forest Glen with completion expected in spring 2016. The second phase will include an additional 1.2 miles of paved trail ending at Gompers Park near the FPCC’s LaBaugh Woods and Irene C. Hernandez Picnic Grove at Foster Avenue.
“The Forest Preserves has more than 300 miles of trails throughout Cook County—a vital asset that promotes both healthy living and transportation alternatives,” said FPCC General Superintendent, Arnold Randall.
Once the extension is complete, the North Branch Trail will connect with the Chicago Department of Transportation’s future Weber Spur trail, and the Complete Streets initiative’s on-street bikeways.
“This allows us to eventually connect one of the Forest Preserves’ trails to the City of Chicago’s Lakefront Trail, which has been part of both agencies’ long range plans to bring together two of the region’s best used trails,” General Superintendent Randall said.
The North Branch Trail extension is estimated to cost $7.2 million, with 80 percent of the project being federally funded by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning’s (CMAP) Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program (CMAQ).
“The new extension of the North Branch Trail is a smart federal investment that will support Chicago’s pedestrian and cycling infrastructure,” said U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (IL-05). “It will increase safety, improve the livability of our community and solidify Chicago as a national leader in sustainable transportation. Through my position in Congress, I will continue working hard to bring federal dollars back to the Chicagoland area in order to help great projects like this trail extension succeed. I thank the Forest Preserves of Cook County for their ongoing support in the effort to connect Chicagoans to the nature around them.”
The remaining 20 percent of the project cost will be funded by the Forest Preserves along with $192,000 of Open Space Impact Fee Funds (OSIF) designated by Alderman Margaret Laurino (39th).
“The North Branch Trail Extension will encourage more outdoor activities, boost bicycling and provide a healthy transportation alternative,” said Chicago Alderman Margaret Laurino. “In addition to the trail being good for the environment, the city money is not coming from taxpayers, but rather from Open Space Impact Fees which are collected from new residential developments to help finance public open space improvements.”
Funding for the second phase, will also include $1.6 million from a Transportation Alternatives Program to supplement CMAQ funding.
“Creating a regional network of open spaces is key to enhancing the quality life for all metropolitan Chicago’s residents,” said Joseph C. Szabo, Executive Director of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP). “In programming CMAQ and TAP funds to extend the North Branch Trail, CMAP is proud to help promote greater park access and improve recreational opportunities in the region.”
In addition to the Chicago Department of Transportation and CMAP, supporters and partners of the North Branch Trail extension include the Illinois Department of Transportation, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Trails for Illinois and the United States Bicycle Route System.
In 2013, the Forest Preserves’ Recreational Master Plan was established as a blueprint for enhancing existing recreation opportunities and expanding trail connections, as well as identifying and developing new opportunities compatible with the Forest Preserves’ mission.
Currently, the North Branch Trail begins at Caldwell and Devon Avenues in Chicago, and continues north approximately 20 miles to Lake County, Illinois, and travels through 10 communities including Chicago, Niles, Morton Grove, Skokie, Golf, Glenview, Wilmette, Northfield, Winnetka and Glencoe. In Glencoe, the North Branch Trail winds through the Chicago Botanic Garden and ends where it connects to the Green Bay Trail.
About the Forest Preserves of Cook County
Don’t you sometimes just want to escape? Explore the natural beauty of Cook County for an hour, a day or even a night. When you’re surrounded by 70,000 acres of wild and wonderful there’s no better place to feel free.