ROCK FALLS – After vandals targeted the Storybook Trail about
3 weeks ago, the city is considering moving it to a new location.
The vandals, who haven’t been caught yet, struck sometime during the last weekend in August. City officials said it appeared that pellet guns were used to damage most of the 32 displays that held pages from the books.
Mary Nelson, the University of Illinois Extension Service program director who worked with the city on the trail project, told the Canal and Trails Committee on Tuesday that now the books are being ruined.
Nelson checked with Mount Carroll officials to see what they were doing to protect a similar trail recently set up there. That trail is on park district property and surrounded by homes.
After considerable discussion, everyone seemed to agree that the trail should be moved so it can be better protected. The half-mile path is in an isolated area, running from Avenue D near Linville Crossing to McNeil Road.
The location worked well with the nature-themed children’s books that were chosen, but, Police Chief Tammy Nelson said, “It’s just too remote out there, and I think the long-term solution is to move it.”
If it were closer to town, more people would use it and residents could help police the area, she said.
After Nelson suggested putting the trail in a park, the most popular suggested site turned out to be within shouting distance of City Hall.
Kiwanis Playground Park, at 716 Sixth Ave., is owned by the city, but maintained by the Coloma Township Park District. In 1976, the park district and Rock Falls Kiwanis Club started leasing the land near the municipal complex to create the park. Its main features are playground equipment, a picnic area, and a practice
“I think Kiwanis Park is a great idea – it’s near the library, police and fire stations, and you already have picnic tables there,” City Administrator Robbin Blackert said.
Parks Executive Director Mike Sterba said he would discuss the possibility with the park board, but who would be responsible for taking care of the trail wasn’t discussed.
A firm decision hasn’t been made, but after things are patched together for a Sept. 22 Extension event Nelson has scheduled for parents and teachers, the trail will be shut down for the winter.
City staff will try to find time to put the poles and other equipment in storage, so no more damage can be done before the trail site is moved in the spring.
A GROUNDBREAKING TRAIL
When the Rock Falls Storybook Trail was dedicated on Oct. 9, 2015, it was the first permanent trail of its kind in Illinois. The first book displayed was "Plant a Pocket of Prairie" by Phyllis Root and Betsy Bowen.