Though only about three-quarters of a mile, a new trail dedicated Thursday morning in Libertyville Township is considered a critical link in an area known for an extensive trail system.
Libertyville Township Supervisor Kathleen O'Connor and others involved in the collaborative effort to build the long-sought Route 137 Bull Creek Trail Connector gathered for a ceremonial public introduction and thank-you.
The observance was held just north of a 400-foot-long boardwalk over the creek, at the point where the limestone trail splits. One length heads west past a hayfield to the Bull Creek subdivision. The other goes north near towering ComEd power lines to connect with the Casey Trail and points beyond, including the Des Plaines River Trail, which runs the length of Lake County.
About 50 hot but happy trail users and representatives from the township, the village of Libertyville, ComEd, and other agencies and organizations were on hand Thursday to celebrate the completion of the $835,000 project.
"You can make a loop here through Bull Creek -- it gives you a mile and a half walk," said Al Lewis, who moved into a house adjoining the trail around 1996. "We've been waiting for this for 20 years."
O'Connor, who pursued the project after being elected supervisor in 2009, said trail users have been incredibly patient.
"I know government moves slow but I don't think they envisioned government would move this slow," she said.
Carlo Cavallaro, external affairs manager for ComEd, said he works on more bike trails in Lake County than in any other area.
"And we cover all of northern Illinois. That's a testament to Lake County," he said.
The genesis for the project came 30 years ago when Paul Geiselhart and other Bull Creek residents brought a petition to the township.
"Some of the neighbors didn't want it," Geiselhart said. "Things have really changed since then, and lifestyles have changed considerably."
Jen Matulenko and her kids Chad, 13, Cole, 11, Erin, 10 and Kate, 5, were at the ceremony.
"These guys have been on their bikes almost every day," she said. "They were up at 6:30 this morning."
The project got underway last fall. It involved the reconstruction and relocation of the village trail that begins at Castleton Road in the Timber Creek subdivision. The trail was rerouted away from the rear of the homes, and the township built a segment through the woods and over the creek to form the junction.
"This is a great amenity for the county, the township and certainly for the village," said village Trustee Pete Garrity, who road his bike to the gathering.
The township also owns the Casey Trail fronting the 6,000-acre Liberty Prairie Reserve. At that point, bikers and hikers can head east to the Independence Grove Forest Preserve and the Des Plaines trail or west through the Oak Openings Natural Preserve to Grayslake and farther to the Rollins Savanna Forest Preserve and its trail system and connection. "From this spot now they have access to downtown Libertyville all the way to downtown Grayslake," said Sarah Surroz, director of conservation partnerships for Conserve Lake County. The organization helped identify the trail path and organized an open house.
"This connection was the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle to complete the whole picture," Surroz said.