Illinois' Constitution Trail - a Backbone of Thriving Communities

Posted 10/03/13 by Garry Little in America's Trails, Success Stories

Photo © Friends of the Constitution Trail

Living in the flat cornfields of central Illinois, it can be a challenge to find scenic areas for trails and greenways.

But for almost 25 years the Town of Normal and the City of Bloomington have been working together to build a linear park treasured by the community that provides residents and visitors with a variety of terrains and experiences.

Now a connected web of trail weaving in and throughout "Blo-No," the Constitution Trail is known and loved as one of Illinois' most important trail systems.

With a quickly growing population and a large number of college students in the area, the Constitution Trail, dedicated and named on the 200th birthday of the U.S. Constitution, has become a critical piece of transportation and recreation infrastructure. Its impact on boosting local quality of life, too, is undisputed. One recent review of the Constitution Trail at described it as the "Backbone of Thriving Communities." We agree.

This multi-use rail-trail was made possible through a unique cooperative venture between Normal and Bloomington. In May of 1986, the councils of both communities approved the process of acquisition of land for the new trail. At that time the Illinois Central Gulf Railroad was looking to sell their disused right-of-way that ran right through Normal's Uptown area, and the original section of trail was developed on the old railroad right-of-way going north and south, linking the communities.

Having grassroots support for any public improvement is extremely important, and especially so for trail development. Friends of the Constitution Trail, along with numerous neighborhood organizations, have provided that support including funding for many of the numerous improvements along the trail. Helping continue this momentum, local groups such as Bike BloNo and McLean County Wheelers have helped keep grassroots pressure on local leaders for active transportation options.

Photo © Friends of the Constitution Trail

The Constitution Trail is being designed to link residents to park areas, recreational facilities, shopping and local businesses, students to educational institutions, and provide access to local offices and public libraries. The Town of Normal is currently in the process of implementing a pedestrian/bicycle plan that further links residential areas and provides for the development of shared roadways throughout the community, as well as the development of a wayfinding plan for both the trail and shared paths.

What will the next 25 years bring? Hopefully an even broader network of trails and shared roadways that will meet the needs of residents in the future.

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