Pedal, Paddle, and Hike!
Those words embody the vision we had when work started on developing the Pecatonica River as a water trail in Stephenson County. We worked long and hard and were able to reach that goal. Most importantly, we advocate for our projects and we raise money to build our projects.
We were designated a WaterTrail by Stephenson County. That wasn’t enough. Our initial plan identified launch sites for the Pecatonica River throughout Stephenson County. Our plan was developed using Illinois Paddling Council procedures. Work on additional sites was begun. Brochures were printed, events were scheduled, and use of the Pecatonica River promoted. We were designated a water trail in the State of Illinois.
Except for Mother Nature “raining on our parade” or flooding, things are progressing. Now we see what could be a step backward in the “Pedal, Paddle, and Hike” plan. The Jane Addams trail is part of a “Rails to Trails” conversion of former railroad routes, to bike trails. Part of the bridge near Cedarville Road has deteriorated to the point where the maintenance equipment used on the trail cannot use the bridge. Bicycle traffic is acceptable, for now.
The bridge in question is about 133 years old, was a construction of Chicago, Madison & Northern, 1886 – 1888, and part of the Illinois Central. The route was abandoned in 1985. Railroads take bridges very seriously and that is why it has lasted so long. However, it is time for some attention for this structure.
The current economic situation, caused by the Covid—19 pandemic, is likely to impact municipal income at every level and for a very long time. Those interested in maintaining the current level of recreational opportunities will need to make their voices heard and participate in the search for funding to maintain existing bike and hiking trails. You should also realize that not all of the local representatives are in support of all recreational activities. It is important to make your opinions known and to be prepared to work together finding ways to fund our resources.
For us, the Wes Block site for the Jane Addams Trail was on our list as a potential launch site because it is half-way between McNeil’s Damascus Landing and Tutty’s Crossing. The site was also the trailhead for the Jane Addams Trail. Now there is a bike trail connection from Wes Block to Tutty’s Crossing, which also has a boat launch and a canoe/kayak launch. If you bike, hike or paddle, get involved in finding the funding solutions.
Joe Ginger, president
Friends of the Pecatonica River Foundation
The Illinois Central was chartered by the Illinois General Assembly on February 10, 1851. At its completion in 1856, the IC was the longest railroad in the world. Its main line went from Cairo, Illinois to Galena, Illinois. In 1886, the Chicago, Madison & Northern ran a line north from Freeport to Madison, Wisconsin, completed by 1888. They joined the Illinois Central in 1903. The line ran through Scioto Mills and Red Oak. At Red Oak, the Illinois Central built a junction station where the line branched. The northern branch, running through Buena Vista and Orangeville, became known as the Madison branch. This branch is what now constitutes the Jane Addams.
On February 1st, 1888, the first train ran the entire distance between Freeport, Illinois and Madison, Wisconsin.