Bartlett 6th-grader pushes for Fox River Trail connection
Gino Santini likes to ride his bike on the Fox River and Illinois Prairie Path bike trails, but the 11-year-old Bartlett resident says it's difficult to safely get from his house on the west end of Bartlett to the trails in South Elgin.
Rather than sit on the sidelines, Gino has sprung into action.
The Sycamore Trails sixth-grader now has more than 350 signatures on an online petition asking Bartlett and South Elgin to work together to build a bike path or sidewalk down Middle Street connecting Route 25 to the Fox River Trail.
Gino started working on getting a bike path as part of a Dream Day class project at the beginning of the school year.
He says there are a lot of kids who live in his neighborhood around Westridge subdivision, and there isn't a whole lot to do in that area of Bartlett. Westridge is just east of Route 25 on Bartlett Road, about one mile from the Fox River Trail.
Area residents, Gino says, have to bike down Middle Street without a bike path or sidewalk to get to the Fox River.
"I wanted to do something that would make a change in the community," Gino said.
To make his case, he began his project by researching places those who had safe access to the bike path could go, including the Gail Borden Library and the Fox River for fishing, hiking and picnicking.
After Gino created the online petition, his mom, Jennifer Santini posted it on her Facebook page. Now, he has less than 150 signatures to go before he reaches 500.
Bartlett Village Trustee Aaron Reinke reached out to Gino and shared information about the petition at a village board meeting. Since beginning to work with Reinke, Gino has learned a lot about local government.
"I've really learned how to get your voice out and try to make a difference," he said. "At first I was shocked to see the support and how much people cared. Everyone wanted to help out."
Reinke says Bartlett residents have been pushing for a comprehensive bike path plan for a while.
"I think what Gino did really underscored that need, and it kind of served as a springboard," he said.
And while Reinke has not worked directly with South Elgin yet, he believes it will be receptive to the plan as the village already has a bike and pedestrian planning group.
Terry Witt, a bicycle advocate with the Spin Doctors Cyclewerks bike shop in Bartlett, is excited to see Gino's work.
"Here's a young guys who sees a problem, researches it, comes up with solutions and creates a petition," Witt said. "It's encouraging to see youth do that."
Gino's mom enjoys watching him work toward bettering the area.
"I'm really proud of him that he would pick something that would help the community," she said.
And Gino says he's learned a lot about putting change into action.
"You can make a change if you just have a small idea because there are plenty of things that can spark it and there are people who can help you," he said.