Trail of the Month
Glen Carbon Heritage Bike Trail, Illinois
Just about twenty miles northeast of St. Louis, east of the mighty Mississippi River, is the Ronald J. Foster Heritage Trail in the Village of Glen Carbon, Illinois. Named after Ronald J. Foster, Sr., who was a dedicated Village Trustee and former Mayor of Glen Carbon with a public service record of over 30 years, the Glen Carbon Trail was one of the first 500 rail-to-trail conversions in the U.S.. The Trail is an excellent example of a local community working with the surrounding region to lay the groundwork for an extensive regional trail network.
At 6.7 miles, the Glen Carbon Heritage Trail is a well maintained and frequently used community oriented recreational path that has succeeded in retaining its rustic appearance. Because of the Trail's popularity, Village officials are busy planning a mile and a quarter extension to the Trail's east end. In addition, the Village is working with Madison County (IL) Transit to link the Heritage Trail to the proposed School House Connector to the east, along with a planned limestone trail to the west. When completed, these connections will enable users of the Glen Carbon Heritage Trail to access some 50 to 70 miles of bike paths in the surrounding area.
In 1991, Glen Carbon completed the first 3.2 trail miles; last month, the Village completed a 3.5 mile extension, bringing the Trail to its present length of 6.7 miles. Both of these projects were funded through an Illinois Department of Natural Resources Bicycle Path Grant. Highlights along the Trail's path include a 150 foot tunnel under State Route 159; seven old timber trestles over Judy Creek which criss-crosses approximately 2.5 miles of the Trail; and nature projects that have focused on adding to, and preserving, the natural vegetation and prairie land that abuts the Trail.
Community support has been integral to the Trail's success. The local Kiwanis Club assisted with the Heritage Trail's initial construction, vocational classes from a local high school have constructed the historical and trail map display structures featured on the trail and wooden benches have been installed along the trail by several Eagle Scout projects over the last ten years.
The Ronald J. Foster Glen Carbon Heritage Trail lies on an old abandoned Illinois Central (IC) Railroad corridor. In the late 1800's and early 1900's, the IC, in addition to two other railroads that ran through the village, provided transportation for local residents to the surrounding communities. Today, thanks to the foresight of Village and community officials, the Glen Carbon Heritage Trail provides an alternative transportation option that will someday extend for miles into the St. Louis metro area.