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posted: 6/21/2012 10:53 AM

Connecting our communities via trails

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  • A local couple heads north along the Fox River Trail for some exercise and fresh air while enjoying the safety and serenity that make local trails a terrific community asset.

    A local couple heads north along the Fox River Trail for some exercise and fresh air while enjoying the safety and serenity that make local trails a terrific community asset.
    Courtesy of Fox Valley Park District


Outside the office window, the Fox River flows. Bicyclists, walkers, in-line skaters and runners shadow the shoreline, flashing in the water's reflection as they happily make their way along the trail.

With this view, there's no such thing as a bad day.

A recent visit to newly renovated Waubonsie Lake Park in Aurora's southeast quadrant reinforced that perspective. In the twilight of early evening, it was a picture of community pride. Fishermen, young couples, doting grandparents, moms pushing strollers, cute little sisters sharing an ice cream cone, dad and son playing catch -- and the constant flow of runners and cyclists quietly passing by.

Both of these idyllic scenes have one thing in common -- trails. The Fox Valley Park District manages and maintains 43 miles worth -- about the same distance it would take for a bike ride from Aurora to downtown Chicago, with side trips to Wrigley Field and U.S. Cellular Field.

And, actually, that trip would be possible without having to leave the safety and sanctity of the trails.

The same goes for a trip from Oswego to the Wisconsin border. Paralleling the Fox River much of the way, it's 65 miles of cycling through a sanctuary of linear parks.

Connecting our trails to create a network of destination-based pathways is a top priority of the park district and other agencies that advocate for active alternatives.

Trails are avenues for recreation and human-powered transportation; they represent safety, health, environmental stewardship and resource conservation, to name just a few of their benefits.

Clean, active travel is a stark yet refreshing contrast to the smog and gridlock we too often see and experience.

We are particularly blessed in the Fox Valley to have three world-class trails crisscrossing our communities -- the Fox River Trail, the Virgil Gilman Trail and the Illinois Prairie Path. The immensely popular Waubonsie Lake Trail ranks right up there as well.

They're not only enjoyable, but functional as well. The Bike Commuter Challenge was held last week throughout the Chicago area, and it served to remind that trails can become an increasingly important feature in the area's infrastructure.

Biking to work is a great career move, made easier by the array of excellent trails. Bike commuters have the privilege of enjoying fresh air and exercise when they'd otherwise be sedentary behind the steering wheel. It's a 2-for-1 deal that burns calories instead of carbon; a workout to and from work.

Since 2008, the park district has added more than eight miles of new trails, with additional trails planned along the river at Lippold Park and around Jericho Lake. Two newly constructed bridges -- the Gilman Trail bridge over Galena Boulevard and the Fox River Trail bridge connecting to Hurds Island -- are must-travel icons of the district's trail network.

Prospects for the future are equally exciting. There are many more connections to be made, but the grid is continually expanding. This is the wave of the future; the trip of a lifetime, where there's always something new around the next bend.

Jeff Long is the public relations manager for the Fox Valley Park District. Contact him at

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