Changes Coming to Chautauqua Bottoms

The need for change  Anyone who has walked trails within Chautauqua Bottoms during the wet season knows that this entire area can be become waterlogged - trails can be several inches under water for extended periods of time - preventing anyone from getting through with dry feet.  And because Little Crab Orchard Creek runs through the property, the westernmost trail is isolated from the other two.  Not only does this trail lack a parking lot, but it can only be accessed from the south by walking along Chautauqua Road where cars pass by at high speeds.  Ever since purchasing the western parcel in 2004 we have wanted to improve the trail surface, eliminate the need to walk on the road, and connect our three separate trails. 

Improvements are coming  In 2015 Green Earth was awarded a grant under the IDNR’s Recreational Trails Program for upgrades to the Chautauqua Bottoms trails.  We have been in a holding pattern for the past two years because of state budgetary issues, but we are pleased to announce that we are finally able to move forward with the projects.  The upgrades include improvements to the trail surfaces and the installation of a pedestrian bridge over Little Crab Orchard Creek. 

Opening up the trails to those with limited mobility  With Prairie Living Senior Community adjacent to our site on the south end, and with the Center for Independent Living nearby on the north end, we are motivated to upgrade the trail connecting Chautauqua Road to Sunset Drive to ADA friendly standards.  We will follow the USFS guidelines for wilderness accessibility - meaning that this trail will not be paved and will not lose its naturalness.  Instead it will have a hard-packed smooth surface, ramped elevation changes, widths to accommodate wheelchair passing zones, and an improved parking lot with dedicated handicap parking.  We want to promote access to natural areas to as much of the population as possible.  Carbondale has a reputation for accessibility and we are pleased that we can add to this standing.  

Other improvements  The remainder of the trails within the preserve will receive gravel for improved drainage and drier feet.  The main parking area will be given a much needed overhaul including more parking, aesthetic upgrades, and informational signs.

Funding this work   Of course all these upgrades take funding.  The IDNR RTP grant will pay for 80% of this project ($102,000), leaving us to fundraise the remaining 20% ($25,500).  We are able to leverage $5,000 from an Amenities Grant as match, and we will continue to look for other ways to leverage funds, but it will ultimately be up to our local community to help us meet the match portion of this project. 

Public Unveiling  We held a Kick-Off event in September 2017 where we invited the public to view an artist rendering of the pedestrian bridge, presented details of the project, answer questions, and discuss the future of Green Earth’s trail systems within Carbondale.

Status  As of summer 2018, the parking lot upgrades have been completed, the trail upgrades are starting, the bridge is being manufactured and is slated for delivery by mid-fall.  We are very excited!  Please check back for inforamtion on the Gran Opening.

Changes Planned . . . 

1. The David Kenney Trail will be widened to 5 feet, have a hard packed surface, and will be ADA friendly.

2. A pedestrian bridge will be placed over Little Crab Orchard Creek at the south end of the preserve, connecting the Kenney Trail to the Maurice Webb Trail.

3. The Maurice Webb and Woodland Spur Trails will be improved to increase drainage and keep the trails drier.

4. The parking lot on Chautauqua Road will be expanded and improved.

Please visit Green Earth’s blog and Facebook page for more information as this project progresses.

If you like what you see, please consider donating to Green Earth. This project is being funded by a matching grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources where they provide 80% of the funding, and Green Earth has to raise the remaining 20%. Please make a donation today! 
donations will be earmarked for the Chautauqua Bottoms upgrade fund

Thank you for your support!