MORRISON – It took 10 years and more than $220,000, but the first part of a new trail for bicyclists, snowmobilers, pedestrians and dog walkers is open.
The Morrison-Rockwood Recreational Trail runs from just north of the covered bridge on Norrish Road off of Orange Street, to the intersection of Crosby and Damen roads, about 8 tenths of a mile.
It's the first stretch of a path the nonprofit Friends of the Park hopes eventually will extend about 1 more mile, to the entrance of Morrison-Rockwood State Park.
The feat will be celebrated with a grand opening dedication and reception at noon Thursday that will feature a wide variety of activities, including a children's bike giveaway and a birds of prey demonstration.
"Overall, this multiuse trail project has taken a few years to complete this portion, but the results are fantastic and it is a welcome addition to the area," Mayor Everett Pannier said in an email to Sauk Valley Media.
In 2004, Friends of the Park began seeking state funds to help pay for the project. In 2008, the Morrison City Council agreed to help get a grant. Easements from three landowners were obtained to build the trail on the west side of Crosby.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources agreed to pony up up to $312,560, and also provided an $11,500 grant from its snowmobile trail establishment fund. The city was required to pay 20 percent of the IDNR grant; Friends of the Parks offered to raise that share, and did, through donations and fundraisers.
Then construction bids came in under estimate, so asphalt, rather than rock and chip, was used to pave the path, and a 40-foot-long decorative wooden bridge over Boyer Springs was added, instead of the metal culvert plans called for.
Trail signs have been added, and benches are planned in some of the shaded areas.
The final cost: $220,562. The IDNR grant paid $172,609, Friends raised $30,868, and $17,085 came from the snowmobile fund and other donors.
Trail dedication Thursday features bikes, birds and local bigwigs
MORRISON – A grand opening dedication and reception for the Morrison-Rockwood Recreational Trail begins at noon Thursday with a ribbon-cutting at the trailhead, at the intersection of Crosby and Norrish roads. (Parking will be available at the Mount Pleasant Township Garage and along Crosby.)
Morrison Mayor Everett Pannier and Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, will dedicate the trail, which members of the public, and their dogs, are invited to walk, run, or bike. Soft drinks, light snacks and doggie treats will be provided.
Jill Dykhoff, a staffer for U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, Ed Barsotti, executive director of the League of Illinois Bicyclists, George Bellovics, a state Department of Natural Resources landscape architect, and Stan Mitick of Friends of the Parks will speak.
Immediately after the dedication, Rockford Park District representatives will present a birds of prey program featuring an American kestrel, a great horned owl, and a barred owl, all rehabilitated from injuries and deemed unable to survive in the wild.
Also starting at noon, kids can register to win a free bike. One boy and one girl will take home a free bike and a helmet. Winners will be announced after the birds of prey program.
Also that day, about 200 bicyclists from the League of Illinois Bicyclists Grand Illinois Trail and Parks tour will be traveling through Morrison, and will make a pit stop at the dedication. The course takes them on the new recreational trail, over the covered bridge, and on to Morrison High School, where they’ll camp for the night.
The 12th annual GITAP ride, coordinated by the League of Illinois Bicyclists and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, introduces bicycle tourists to the rural roads, trails, and towns of the Grand Illinois Trail. Each year, the ride tackles a different section of the 500-mile northern Illinois loop.
This year's tour started Sunday and ends Friday in Oregon, with overnight stops in Freeport, Galena (two nights), Savanna, and Morrison. Go to www.bikelib.org for information on the ride.
Ahead of the events, Friends of the Park has installed an interactive art exhibit on the trail. “Forest of My Three Words” encourages visitors to express themselves in just three words on a length of ribbon, then tie their ribbons on one of five bamboo poles that make up the “grove.”
The ribbons' unique, personal messages – which could range from the humorous to the profound, from deeply personal to public outcry – will create a collective voice of the Morrison community, organizers said.
The temporary exhibit, an idea borrowed from Atlanta, Georgia, artist Misao Cates, will be in place until after the annual Paint The Town festivities. All are encouraged to revisit the trail during that time to witness the change and growth of the work, and participate as many times as they would like.
About Friends of the Park
The nonprofit Friends of the Parks Foundation was formed in 1996 to help the city of Morrison provide park and recreational opportunities for the community. In addition to helping develop a trail system in the state park, it organizes bike rides and bike rodeos, conducts bike safety checks, helped design and place bike racks downtown, and has written grants that have paid to replace playground equipment at city parks.
The group meets at 7 p.m. the second Tuesday of the month at the Morrison Historical Museum in the old Odell Library.
Tax-deductible donations are being accepted for the second half of the Morrison-Rockwood Recreational Trail, the extension to the state park's entrance.
Go to www.friendsoftheparksmorrison.org, or find Friends of the Parks Morrison on Facebook to volunteer, donate or for more information.
About the park
The 164-acre Morrison-Rockwood State Park at 8750 Lake Road in Morrison is named after nearby Rock Creek, the heavily wooded area known as Rockwood, and the city.
Among its features are Lake Carlton, a stream-fed reservoir popular for boating, paddle-boating and fishing, picnic and camping areas, a playground, concessions that offer food and beverages, boat rentals and bait sales, and trails for hiking as well as biking.
Go to dnr.state.il.us or call 815-772-4708 for more information on the park and its amenities.