Tuesday, October 09, 2012
 
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Ideas roll for Logan County bicycle trail master plan

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[October 09, 2012]  The public was invited to a brainstorming session Oct. 2 at the Lincoln Park District concerning the creation of bicycle trails in Logan County. An overview of the process was given by the Farnsworth Group, an architectural firm that would oversee the building of the bike trails.

Don Rutledge and Jeff Martin were present as representatives of the Farnsworth Group. Will DíAndrea from the Logan County Regional Planning Commission was also present as a co-host of sorts.

Martin explained that the Farnsworth Group was hired to put together an overall master plan for bicycle trails in Logan County. This plan would ideally connect various parts of Logan County. Furthermore, Logan County needs to have a plan in order to apply for any kind of grant money needed to build the trails.

Martin also explained that there are existing bicycle trails in Bloomington, Peoria and Springfield. In looking at the big picture, a bicycle trail in Logan County could eventually connect with any of the trails that are already present in other counties.

Martin had a series of questions for guests as to what should be considered in brainstorming for this master plan. He said the first and most important question is: "What are the most important elements that you think should be in this master plan?"

The most common answer given to this question was connectivity. Multiple people suggested that the trail should connect various areas of Logan County, such as existing parks. People also expressed a desire to see the trails connect to the various communities and townships in Logan County. It was also suggested that the trails be built in various types of terrain to create scenic routes.

Another important element is that of ownership. Determining what land will be used as part of the master plan will provide a look at which land will need to be bought versus land that is already available.

Another question Martin asked was: "What types of trails should the plan include?" Several ideas were presented, such as paved trails, off-road paths and painted lanes on existing roads. Suggestions were also brought up to accommodate skaters and people who just want to walk.

Martin returned to connectivity by bringing up historical sites the county may want to connect with trails. Martin said this is pretty obvious: The county would likely want to connect areas such as downtown Atlanta, the various Abraham Lincoln sites and Route 66.

Martin also asked about natural areas that Logan County would like to connect with trails. Edward Madigan State Park and Kickapoo Creek Park were mentioned, as was Elkhart Hill.

One of the more delicate matters brought up for discussion was whether or not the trails should be given a "brand" of some sort. It was suggested that the trails become part of the Abraham Lincoln "brand," meaning that they would be connected to the various historical sites in the county that are associated with Abraham Lincoln.

On the other side of the argument is Route 66. Adding the trails to Route 66 may be a little easier. There are already signs on Route 66 with bicycle symbols on them, and they would be easy to replicate, according to Martin.

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The problem with assigning the trails to either of these "brands" lies with townships and areas that are not really tied to either Abraham Lincoln or Route 66. Those towns likely seek to make their own names for themselves, rather than simply being connected to previously established landmarks.

Furthermore, each town will likely be working on its own part of the master plan. A proposed solution would be to name the various parts of the master plan according to the wishes of each section of the trails.

Another question concerned the amenities that could come with the bicycle trails. Suggestions included car and bicycle parking areas, mileage markers, park benches or shelters, trash containers, and possibly signage providing historical knowledge.

Martinís next question was: "What are the priority areas and phases of the plan?"

One desired bicycle route would be a connection between Lincoln and Union to the north, along County Highway 2. A trail from Edward Madigan State Park to Elkhart along Route 66 was also mentioned.

An important phase of the operation will be garnering public support. The easiest way to do that, according to a few audience members, is to start on a smaller scale and find ways to connect communities. One guest commented that "the best trails are the ones that go through a town, so people have a chance to use them."

The last question of the session concerned cities and counties outside of Logan that could eventually be connected to the new trails. It seemed most likely to those involved that any connections would come from the north, as it is easier for more people to travel in that direction. Furthermore, Salt Creek provides too large an obstruction in trying to look south for expansion.

Any such connections would occur years down the line, after the Logan County trails were finished.

Farnsworth Group provides engineering and architectural services. Its services include architecture, landscape architecture, engineering, plumbing, commissioning, consulting and land development. It serves clients in health care, educational, recreational and commercial fields, and state, local and federal government agencies, as well as municipalities. Farnsworth Group is based in Bloomington and has offices in Missouri, Georgia, Colorado, Wisconsin and California.

For more information on existing trails in Illinois, visit http://www.traillink.com/.

[By DEREK HURLEY]

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