Input sought for closure of Centennial Trail
A popular bike trail that extends from Lemont to Willow Springs is slated for closure next week, but before that happens, users of Centennial Trail are invited to give their input at a 6 p.m. meeting Thursday at the Willow Springs Community Center, 8156 Archer Ave.
The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago plans to close the trail Monday, from Route 83 to Willow Springs Road, as part of a flood-control project at the McCook Reservoir, which is part of the Deep Tunnel project. The trail is on MWRD property, and extends from 135th Street in Lemont to Willow Springs Road.
The closed section is to be used by the MWRD to deposit 1.8 million cubic yards of dirt — that’s a 60-foot-high pile, 11/2 miles long — according to Steve Buchtel, executive director of Trails for Illinois.
In 2015, the MWRD will build a new trail on the north side of the pile.
While Buchtel does not dispute the need for additional flood-control measures, he has raised several concerns about the proposed detours and the future of Centennial Trail. He also questioned why a public meeting is being held just a few days prior to the trail closing, when the MWRD has planned this for months.
“The MWRD has been a good trail partner, but it is being a poor landlord,” Buchtel said. “We could have been negotiating this for months.”
When the McCook Reservoir project is fully functional in 2029, it will hold 10 billion gallons of sewer overflows that currently create sewer backups, and will provide $90 million per year in flood-control benefits to 3.1 million people in 37 communities, according to an MWRD news release.
“Centennial Trail is a public amenity, and we certainly understand the concerns regarding the trail as a resource our residents enjoy,” MWRD executive director David St. Pierre said in the release. “However, we must balance the need to keep the Tunnel and Reservoir Plan moving forward.”
Cyclists and trail users will be detoured to the Illinois & Michigan Trail, which runs parallel to Centennial Trail on the south side of the canal, but that trail is in “poor shape” and the connections to it are “awful,” Buchtel said.
“People will use the I&M Trail,” he said, “but they won’t enjoy it.”
He wants the MWRD to provide permanent way-finding signs to the John Husar I&M Trailhead on Willow Springs Road — which he said is now “invisible” — and to the connection off Route 83.
The design of the proposed new trail along the Des Plaines River is “sketchy,” Buchtel said.
“It makes you wonder if they are serious about replacing the trail,” he said.
He also wonders what can be done with the pile of dirt that will remain.
“Mountain bikers would love it,” he said.
Centennial Trail was paid for with $3 million in federal funds and $1 million in local taxpayer money, according to Buchtel. It is part of the I&M Canal National Heritage Corridor, and plans call for it to connect to the Salt Creek Trail at 47th Street and Harlem Avenue.
The MWRD is seeking recommendations for improvements to the trail. They can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or sent to the MWRD’s Office of Public Affairs, 100 E. Erie Street, Chicago, IL 60611.