Lake forest preserves issue Des Plaines River Trail challenge
Regular bikers and hikers have known the final section of the Des Plaines River Trail and Greenway was completed last fall.
Now, the Lake County Forest Preserve District has issued a public challenge that combines fundraising, health consciousness and promotion to celebrate a vision that took 54 years to finish.
The Des Plaines River Trail Challenge invites the public to travel the entire 31.4-mile trail from Russell Road near the Wisconsin border south to Lake-Cook Road. The mode of travel and the time needed to complete the route by Nov. 30 are flexible, as the intent is to cultivate trail "ambassadors" to spread the word.
"Help celebrate this amazing gem by using it -- all if it," the challenge reads. "Bike it. Boat. Walk it or run it." Points of interest along the trail also are outlined in the district's nature blog, lakecountynature.com/.
This promotion is regarded as more inclusive than a one-time ceremonial event, organizers said.
"That (ceremonial event) doesn't experience the trail," communications specialist Linda Carlstone said. "We kept coming back to, 'How do we keep them using it?'"
Participants can use a challenge log to record travel dates and lengths. Interactive or downloadable trail maps can help users chart a course and find access points, parking lots and other features. Selfie stops along the trail have become popular.
Besides bragging rights, everyone who completes the challenge will be entered in a raffle to win a prize offered by local bike shops. Any amount is welcome, but those who make a tax-deductible donation of $100 to the Preservation Foundation of the Lake County Forest Preserves will receive a commemorative sling bag.
District officials say trail maintenance, which includes mowing, repairing gravel, patrolling, clearing limbs and removing trash, costs $9,000 per mile annually. Carlstone said 500 bags are available.
"We're thinking big and we hope we have to reorder," she said.
Patrick Morris, a member of the Libertyville Running Club, heard about the challenge from his mother, Suzanne, who gives environmental tours and classes as a district volunteer. Morris said he plans to take a 30-mile jaunt Sunday as part of his training for the Hennepin Hundred, a 100-mile trail run between Sterling and Colona, Illinois, Oct. 1.
The trail challenge will be "icing on the cake and a great way to share a great assets Lake County residents have with my friends in the running community," he said. He contacted several area running clubs and is inviting others via Facebook to join him. As of Wednesday afternoon, there were 15 takers.
"We're all looking forward to this journey and finding all the 'selfie stops' the (district) has put out there," Morris said.