Groundbreaking celebration for Cal-Sag Trail project
By Nick Swedberg For Sun-Times Media June 8, 2014 7:40PM
Local officials and members of The Friends of the Cal-Sag Trail celebrate the groundbreaking on the trail Saturday in Alsip. | Nick Swedberg/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 10, 2014 6:33AM
An outdoor trail dreamed up a decade ago over pizza broke ground this weekend.
Local community leaders and members of The Friends of the Cal-Sag Trail group held a ceremony Saturday in Alsip to usher in the start of building the $20 million project.
The stretch of the trail running west to Lemont is expected to be completed this fall.
Steve Buchtel, executive director for The Friends of Cal-Sag Trail, has worked on the project for 10 years and was elated to see it reach this point.
“It’s really exciting for me to see everyone else’s excitement, to see their reaction to it,” Buchtel said.
The full trail will run 26 miles, from Route 83 near Lemont to the Burnham Greenway close to the state border.
“We’re celebrating because the trail is real,” Buchtel said, “but we know that nothing is real until it is funded.”
Federal money is covering 80 percent of the $20 million price tag for the project. Local agencies are expected to cough up the remaining 20 percent.
The Cal-Sag Trail project has been fortunate in that every federal grant that was applied for came through, Buchtel said.
Cal-Sag Trail’s western segment, which runs from Cicero Avenue in Alsip to Lemont, will be completed first. Communities and municipalities along that route were able to put together funding for their segments.
In a bit of surprise news, Illinois Department of Natural Resources director Marc Miller announced the state will commit $1.2 million in funding to help communities cover their portion of the remaining $2 million still needed to finish the eastern half.
The trail connects to five other regional trails to create a system stretching more than 100 miles. More than 185,000 people are within a mile of the Cal-Sag Trail.
It’ll take another one to three years before the entire trail is complete.
The idea for a multi-use trail spanning across the south suburbs was first envisioned during a meeting over pizza at Lake Katherine in Palos Heights 10 years ago, said Debbie Stoffregen, president of the Friends of Cal-Sag Trail.
Since then the nonprofit has maintained a small and dedicated group of people from south suburban communities focused on making the idea a reality.
“There aren’t a lot of people — less than 50 if you count them all up — but the agencies and the towns have worked so well,” she said.