Public input requested for the DuPage County Trails Plan

Bike riders, walkers on a DuPage County trail
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The DuPage County Division of Transportation (DuDOT) is asking the public to weigh in on its draft DuPage County Trails Plan.

Making trails safer and more manageable

DuDOT put the plan together based on feedback from 3,000 survey responses. It’s meant to help make area trails more manageable, accessible, and safer for the public. Before creating the final draft, DuDOT is giving the public one more chance to voice their opinions.

“After carefully considering the overwhelming response to our community survey, we believe it is essential to keep the public informed and seek their input before we move forward with a final document.  We recognize our trails are some of our County’s most treasured resources and we value the community’s feedback as we finalize plans for the future of our trail system,” said Mary FitzGerald Ozog, Chair of the DuPage County Transportation Committee in a news release.

The three regional trails managed by DuPage County are the Illinois Prairie Path, the Great Western Trail, and the Southern DuPage County Regional Trail. The plan takes a look at guidelines for all, along with signage, trail characteristics, maintenance, and the user experience. The trails are used by an estimated 115,000 visitors each year, which contributes about $1.67 million to local businesses.

The county says it uses more than 8,600 staff hours each year for maintenance of the three trails, which includes duties such as invasive species removal, patch mowing, and trimming.

Some initial survey results that helped shape the current draft

The current draft was shaped using responses from two separate surveys put out by the district. The first, put out in fall of 2021, garnered 2,323 responses. The second, posted from late April to mid-June of 2022, had 823 respondents.

Both surveys showed that the majority of users traveled the trails by bike, with the rest predominantly walkers or runners.

The first survey took a look at trail user habits and preferences.

Looking at connectivity, the Morton Arboretum was the top choice for destinations where the public would like the trails to lead them to. Officials say that connectivity is currently being explored.  Many simply asked for more connections county-wide, as well as more north and south connections.

Of the three trails, the Illinois Prairie Path was the most used one by the survey respondents.

From a nature standpoint, 86% of respondents saw native plants and prairie grass areas to be beautiful and highly desirable. 66% showed a preference for wooded and shaded areas.

More than half would stop to read a sign along the trails. But the majority say they’ve never found themselves lost on one of the trails. Connectivity to other trails was ranked as the most important factor to communicate on navigational signage.

About half of respondents say they feel safe on the trails, while the other half expressed some safety concerns, whether by higher-speed cyclists, auto crossings, or by strangers. Common nuisances reported by the 60% who noted them included animals off-leash, or overgrown vegetation.

The second survey dug deeper with some follow-up questions based on the initial survey.

One of its takeaways was trail etiquette. The three things tops on that list were speed limits for bikes, acknowledging stop signs at trail-roadway crossings, and posts on keeping trails clean.

Participants were also asked about best-use ideas for the areas adjacent to the trails. Things like public bathrooms, drinking fountains, and habitat restoration garnered higher marks.

Many also expressed a desire to see spaces within the ComEd corridor, which limits tall trees, filled with native grasses, or seating with shade.

Where to weigh in with feedback

The public is invited to view the current draft of the DuPage County Trails plan online, and give feedback through Nov. 17.

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