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The Friends of the Trails of the Jacksonville Park Foundation invites the public to tour the spot for a planned walk/run/ride bridge at Lake Jacksonville.

Volunteers will be on hand 5:30-6:30 Wednesday afternoon September 7 and 9-10 Saturday morning September 10 with plans for the bridge, and for a proposed bike transportation network. The final vote on the issue is expected at the city council meeting 6pm Monday September 12 (2nd floor City Hall). You can download lake plans via DropBox.

The designed and funded bridge is at the old West Lake Road crossing of Big Sandy Creek. The bridge plus the existing road bed would create a half mile of traffic-free path for families to walk or ride bikes, and enable people to run or ride bikes around Lake Jacksonville without having to travel on IL 267. Mountain bikers who made trails at Mauvaisterre Lake are chomping at the bit to put in trails at Lake Jacksonville that won’t flood. Plus fishermen will have easier access to shoreline close to the dam. And campers on the south side of the lake will have an option to get to the concession area without using their vehicles.

The area is city park land that you may visit at any time. Come during the tour time to get info, take a little walk in the woods to see the site for yourself and find out what you can do to make the bridge a reality. Use Facebook events for Wednesday and Saturday to spread the word. Or bring your dog and join in the simultaneous Dog Packs Wednesday and Saturday.

Directions from Jacksonville — take 267 south, turn left on New Lake Road, turn right on West Lake Road, go about 1 mile to parking lot.

Directions from Jacksonville — take 267 south, turn left on New Lake Road, after RR tracks and houses turn right on West Lake Road, go about 1 mile to parking lot.


Download plans. See the city’s comprehensive plan for references to a bike path around the lake. (Develop a trail system in Jacksonville for multi-purpose use around Lake Jacksonville on p 191, search the PDF for “bike” for other references.) Send feedback on the plans below. Thanks to Shawn Artis for creating the proposed bike transportation plan outline maps. Map of lake showing public land and existing/old roads ripe to be made into trails.


At the Jacksonville Main Street annual meeting today the organization unveiled a new vision for growing downtown — as a place to visit, live, work and play. The vision includes safety for pedestrians and a bike friendly environment to attract people downtown.

As a place to live, downtown communities are a preferred location for retiring boomers and young professionals. Both of these demographic groups are attracted to areas that are pedestrian and bike friendly. As a place to play, designs that attract people on foot and on bike to visit downtown.

Projects like a recreational trail along the Town Brook. Connecting to downtown, say, along Sandy Street with a pocket park where Illinois Power is removing their stream-side substation. A parkway where people can transverse the city, from Foreman Grove/Pioneer Woods to Wal-Mart. A project that not only brings people downtown, but spreads revitalization energy out into the rest of the city.

Projects like a bike route along State Street. Folks from Springfield can come in via Old State Road and cross a pedestrian/bicycle bridge (replacing the old State Street bridge). Traverse the city hitting sights like ISVI, Lonzeratti’s, MacMurray College, downtown, architecture on West State Street, Duncan Park, ISD, on Lafayette past Eisenhower School. West of town take Liberty Road and parallel the old Northern Cross Route (the first railroad west of the Alleghenies) to cross the river at Meredosia and to points west.

The Town Brook Initiative of the Jacksonville Park Foundation seeks to work with community leaders and interested parties to plan these projects through local governments.

Written by Steve Warmowski


A plan is in the works to bring a Disc Golf Course to Foreman Grove, on Jacksonville’s east side. Illinois College students Nathan Zimmerman and Caleb Harris made a presentation recently to the city’s Parks & Lakes Committee. They, along with MacMurray College students Janson Shehorn and Cydny Saxer and others, have been working with the Parks & Lakes Department on plans for a course in the little-used park.

The group so far has approached businesses to sponsor the nine holes on the course (Jacksonville businesses have precedence on hole sponsorships). That and other funds raised, along with interest on the city’s Goveia Family Trust the Parks & Lakes Committee recommended be used to support the project, could allow for completion of the course this spring. The course will be walking distance from Mac and is on the planned route of the Town Brook recreational path. Disc golf is popular amongst high school and college students, and will be a great recreational resource along Jacksonville’s waterways.

City approval for the disc golf course is expected Monday Feb. 24th during the Jacksonville city council meeting. A Parks & Lakes Committee meeting is at 6pm (probably focused on the senior center); discussion during workshop session at 6:30pm; and hopefully a vote during the city council meeting starting at 7:30pm. Come out to the meeting to show your support, check the Town Brook Twitter feed for updates.

For more information or to sponsor a hole contact Nathan Zimmerman (below). Donations can be made to the project by mailing a check made out to the Jacksonville Parks Foundation (indicate Disc Golf in memo) to Laura Marks/JPF Treasurer, Jacksonville Savings Bank, 1211 W. Morton Ave., Jacksonville, IL 62650. (217) 245-4111

Last week on the Facebook page we posted updates on the work of Passavant Area Hospital, the Morgan County Health Department and the Childhood Wellness Coalition to make Jacksonville, Illinois a more health community. One of the priorities is battling metabolic syndrome.

Wendy Smith had an article in The Source Newspaper with details . . .

You’ve heard about heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, but did you know there is a syndrome made up of a cluster of risk factors that increases your risk for all three? Metabolic Syndrome is a group of metabolic risk factors that, occurring together, increase the risk of these deadly conditions.
According to the National Institutes of health, metabolic syndrome is present if you have three or more of the following signs:

  • Blood pressure equal to or higher than 130/85 mmHg
  • Fasting blood sugar (glucose) equal to or higher than 100 mg/dL
  • Large waist circumference (length around the waist) Men– 40 inches or more   Women -35 inches or more
  • Low HDL cholesterol   Men– Under 40 mg/dL   Women ­ under 50 mg/dL
  • Triglycerides equal to or higher than 150 mg/dL

Many people have just one of these conditions, but that does not mean they have metabolic syndrome, although all of the conditions are independent markers of an increased risk for serious disease. More than one of these conditions in combination increase that risk.
There are several risk factors for metabolic syndrome. To name a few:

  • Extra weight around the middle (having an apple shape)
  • Insulin resistance or a family history of diabetes
  • Aging (Your risk develops as you age, although warning signs are often seen in childhood)
  • Race (Asians and Hispanics tend to be more affected)
  • Genes
  • Hormone changes
  • Not exercising

The poor American diet and sedentary lifestyle has created a population that is plagued by signs of metabolic syndrome. While many people have been diagnosed, there are many more that have the condition and do not know it. Even more have never even heard of metabolic syndrome.
The Morgan County Health Department and Passavant Area Hospital have both identified metabolic syndrome as a priority health need. Morgan County showed higher rates than Illinois averages of smokers, obesity, physical inactivity, and low consumption of fruits and vegetables.
Prevention of metabolic syndrome and its complications (heart disease, stroke, and diabetes) are not much different than the regular healthy things you know to do, but just as a healthy reminder, here are some lifestyle remedies to reduce your risk:

  • Get regular check-ups! Having blood work and seeing your family physician often are the best way to prevent disease and diagnose things early. He or she will monitor your blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, cholesterol, glucose, and triglycerides. Also, consult your doctor before trying a new diet or exercise plan.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Having a BMI greater than 25 increases your risk of developing metabolic syndrome.
  • Get moving! You don’t have to join a gym, although that can be great motivation. A brisk 30-45 minute walk each day will do the trick. This will not only keep your weight and blood pressure down, but may help your mood as well.
  • Eat a healthy diet.  You know the good stuff: fruits, veggies, lean meat, whole grains. Watch your fat and cholesterol and salt by avoiding fried and processed foods and added salt. Summer is the best time to get started, think grilled fish and chicken, farm fresh fruits and vegetables, and plenty of cold water.

Thanks to Wendy and The Source for letting us reprint their article. For more information check our Facebook page for . . .

  • The Helen A. Dean Community Garden, at 32 Book Lane, Jacksonville Illinois 62650. Project of Illinois College, Starhill Forest Arboretum and the Passavant Area Hospital Community Childhood Wellness Coalition. Illinois College has partnered with Passavant Area Hospital’s Community Childhood Wellness Coalition, and the internationally-known Starhill Forest Arboretum to create a community garden in the city of Jacksonville. The Helen A. Dean Community Garden, located at 32 Book Lane., provides an opportunity for Illinois College students to integrate their learning, leadership and service with the goal of the health and wellness of the greater Jacksonville community, especially school children and their families. Located in a residential neighborhood, the Garden is a living and learning laboratory.
  • Passavant Area Hospital & Morgan County Health Department Community Health Needs Assessment. Need to exercise for metabolic syndrome. (or complete document).
  • Did you know that Illinois ranks tenth highest in the nation for Childhood Obesity? (local report) According to a report released last summer by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 20.4 percent of our state’s children ages 10-17 are overweight or obese. Upon learning this alarming fact, Passavant Area Hospital initiated a Community Childhood Wellness Coalition. The goal of this group is to create a partnership of community leaders from government agencies, schools, churches, day care providers, healthcare providers, and other local businesses to work together and create awareness, education, and programs devoted to physical fitness, nutrition and weight management for children and their parents.

A park and a path along the Town Brook and connecting Jacksonville’s waterways and parks would be an encouragement for youth and for all to be more physically active and lead to a healthier community.

The Source newspaper ran a profile on Kate Roth, including her involvement in Girls on the Run and her work to bring the program to Jacksonville, Illinois 62650. “Girls on the Run seeks to inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running.”  Town Brook would love groups like this to use a Town Brook recreational path to get children into running and a lifetime of healthy living. 

By Mindy Farmer/The Source Newspaper June 20-26, 2013

Kate Roth remembers the first time her kids recognized their mother’s voice announcing the Jacksonville Downtown Celebration in a radio ad. She was sitting in Applebees, perusing the menu, when they drew her attention to the radio. The kids loved hearing their mother’s distinctive Australian accent on local radio, and she smiled, recalling how it all started.
In the fall of 2009, two friends independently asked Kate to lend her voice to their business voicemail messages. Not long after, Kate discovered an “Introduction to Voice Over ” course while looking through the Lincoln Land Community College catalog. She always enjoyed seeking new learning opportunities and probably would not have noticed this class, except for her recent experience recording for friends. Kate decided to attend the evening class in Springfield and was intrigued by the recording process.
An intensive weekend course followed in Chicago, including the opportunity to record a first demo. The demos were produced by a company independent from the course, giving students the opportunity to meet individuals from the recording industry. At the close of Kate’s recording session, the company representative “offered me a job before I even walked out the door, ” Kate recalls. “This really buoyed me, ” she says, and encouraged her to pursue her new interest.
Kate opened her home recording studio in 2010. She records from a converted space in her home, allowing her to care for her three children and to work in the studio throughout the day. She subscribes to several professional sites that send audition opportunities her way. For Kate, each audition is a chance to practice her skills, so she doesn’t let her distinctive accent deter her. Some companies are seeking only American accents, but others appreciate her unique voice-over talents.
The majority of Kate’s voice-overs are recorded in her home studio and are self-directed, but she occasionally travels for work. Kate traveled to Chicago most recently to record a tutorial for a cosmetology company. They are reaching out to the Australian market, so her voice proved a perfect fit. She recorded in two four-hour sessions to keep from losing her voice. While Kate enjoys recording individually, she also appreciates the opportunity to receive direction and work collaboratively.
In addition to her recording work, Kate works as the Morgan County Coordinator for Girls on the Run. Kate heard about the program a few years ago from fellow running enthusiasts and loved the core beliefs behind it. She decided to work with other volunteers to spread Girls on the Run beyond Sangamon County and introduce it to Jacksonville.
Girls on the Run encourages girls “to think outside the girl box,” Kate explains, and inspires them to be joyful, healthy, and confident. Through the program, girls in 3rd through 8th grades learn life skills through positive, dynamic lessons and running games. The girls have a goal during the year to participate in and complete a 5K.
Kate appreciates how the program teaches life skills in a very positive way, preparing girls both emotionally and physically to set and complete their goals. The idea is to complete the 5K at the end, but Kate says, “They determine how to cross the finish line. They can walk, hop, skip, or jump.” She is excited by how quickly the program has grown over the past few years, and looking forward to seeing it expand to surrounding areas next fall.
She is also able to use her professional skills as a nurse to volunteer as the school nurse at Our Savior’s School. She hasn’t practiced professionally full time since beginning her family but participates in continuing education to maintain her license. Volunteering in the school provides a fun opportunity to help her community and utilize her skills.
Kate came to the United States 17 years ago from London as a traveling nurse. She laughs that she has “itchy feet ” and left Australia as a traveling nurse to experience different countries. Kate never intended to move away from Australia permanently but meeting her husband, John, changed those plans. The Roths will celebrate 15 years of marriage this October and enjoy traveling and experiencing the world together.

Story, used with permission. Thanks to The Source and Mindy Farmer!

The first Saturday in May. Name the big event. You likely answered The Kentucky Derby— the Run for the Roses—the Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports. It is odd that such a renowned event lasts only two minutes. But really it’s not the event itself, is it? It’s the pomp, the show, the hats, the juleps, the parties and all that jazz that make the Derby an event. Otherwise, it would just be a race. A mile-and-a- quarter run to determine who has the fastest (on that day) three year-old thoroughbred. I understand that the pomp and pretense has even made its way to Duncan Park in Jacksonville. My, Oh, My (is that a horse’s name?) Well, dish me up some Hot Brown, finish it off with Derby Pie and call me to the gates.

No, No. This is not an article about the Derby or Kentucky or horses, or bourbon. I’m into bicycling. And the BIG EVENT on the first Saturday in May is the annual Tour de Stooges. For seventeen years, this cycling event has taken place in Southern Illinois, first in Lebanon, now in Highland and has attracted as many as 650 riders in a single day, riders mostly from St. Louis and Southern Illinois, but also from as far away as Hawaii, Washington and Connecticut.

In true “Tour” tradition, the routes available to riders vary in length and difficulty, but they all feature the beauty of the countryside of rural Illinois. Unlike The Tour, it is not a competitive ride—officially, that is. Personal bests are always pursued, and competitions, while not in the program, definitely occur on the road. No horses, no hats, no juleps. But there’s a party— in the event itself, whether one chooses to ride the Joe Besser “Not So Hard” Route – 17 miles, the Curly Howard Shuffle – 22 miles, the Larry Just Fine Route – 30 miles, the Shemp Howard Shortcut – 42 miles or the Moe Howard Metric – 64 miles. The party takes place on the road . . . and after at a catered lunch and “all the slapstick comedy you can stand”—up to 3 hours of Three Stooges films.
First time I rode in the Tour de Stooges, as I passed the primary organizer, Roger Kramer (RIP), who, by the way, passed me later, I shouted to him “calling Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard.”
In true Roger de Stooges form he responded: “How did you find that patient in room 67?” “Under the bed!” “How did you find that patient in room 73?” “Up on the chandelier.” “What did you do for him?” “Nothing! What’d he ever do for us?”
The point to all this is what? Ride from 17 to 64 miles and have a ball! Riding is an excellent solitary sport, as well as a team sport at times. Cycling is a great fitness activity for all ages. Childhood obesity? Put them on bikes. Seniors who can no longer run and jump? Get on your bikes. But in addition to competition, sports and athletics, bicycling can be an excellent social activity, both during and after the ride. A whole lot of fun.
So here is a Derby Day and Stooges Day call to action in two parts.
First, there is a local citizens group, Town Brook Jacksonville, working to mobilize interest in and support for a new city park, a walk- bike-run trail along Mauvaisterre Creek with pedestrian/cycling connection to Downtown, to Community Park, to Nichols Park and to Lake Jacksonville AND to every merchant and point of interest along the way— and when we all learn to think big enough, even networking with similar trails in Springfield and Quincy and Alton and all the way to St. Louis. What an opportunity for both physical and social fitness! Find out about it and get on board.

Story by Harry Ford. Article published in The Source, week of May 28th 2013 – to reach him email Harry -at- (the at sign) Harry and Steve Warmowski are initiating plans for an inaugural ride this fall for Jacksonville. Please contact Steve via our Town Brook Initiative Facebook page to find out more and to help. 217.245.4178

Thanks to Brittany Henry of the Jacksonville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau for passing on information from the state tourism newsletter about Trails for Illinois.

Trails for Illinois‘ mission is to enhance the quality of life in Illinois by connecting the state’s communities and countryside with an interconnected, multi-use public trail network, and by promoting the use of trails for recreation and transportation (from their Facebook page Trails for Illinois).

Their latest report (press release) shows recreational paths boost local economies. The proposed Town Brook recreational trail in Jacksonville, Illinois 62650, mountain biking trails created by Jacksonville mountain bikers, and a proposed bicycle route out to and around Lake Jacksonville bring people into town, draw cyclists who spend money at  restaurants and other businesses, and give a place for healthy living. The non-profit Trails for Illinois research was on larger trails in northern Illinois, but their results imply benefits for smaller trails. Lance Brooks from the Jacksonville mountain bikers said cyclists from Petersburg and elsewhere in the region have been coming in to Jacksonville to use the Audubon Woods trails. Creating paths and routes for bicycling, running, walking, roller blading and other uses would bring people into town. And, local recreational opportunities would reduce trips to Springfield, Chatham and other trail locations by Jacksonvillians – keeping their money in the local economy.

From Trails for Illinois Making Trails Count in Illinois report . . .

  1. Economic ImpactPeople spend money locally while using Illinois trails • 35% of respondents spent money in restaurants and bars • 17% spent money in grocery stores • $1–50 was the most commonly reported expenditure • $30.40 was the average of all reported trail visit expenditures
  2. Environmental ImpactPeople are frequently spending time in nature on Illinois trails • 30%+ of trail users surveyed reported visiting the trail 21 or more times during spring, summer and fall in the past year • 1–2 hours per visit is what trail users most commonly reported spending
  3. Health ImpactPeople are using trails to maintain and improve their health and fitness • 32% of trail users expected to spend more than 150 minutes on the trail during their visit • 41% of trail users surveyed were female • 55% of trail users reported being 46–65 years old • 16% reported being 66 years old or older

Read the report for more details. Watch YouTube presentation. Support efforts of (Facebook, Twitter).

Posted by Steve Warmowski

Lori Large Oldenettel, Jacksonville Alderman Ward 2 and chair of the city’s Town Brook Special Studies Committee, and Steve Warmowski of gave speeches Thursday March 28th to the Jacksonville Kiwanis Club and Friday March 29th to the Jacksonville Noon Rotary Club at their weekly meetings at Hamilton’s.

We gave an overview of the Town Brook project, history and future goals, and plugged the Town Brook April 20th Spring Cleanup.

At both meetings a question came up that needs to be addressed — how much is this going to cost?

Short term – Phase 3 of the engineering study from Farnsworth Group will cost about $48,000. Lori has promised her fellow city council members not to ask for the funds until she gets half of that in grants and donations. So far we’re a finalist for a Make A Difference Day Foundation grant for $10,000 – and we’ll find out the third week of April if the Town Brook project is a winner. And, next week we’ll find out if we’re in the running for in the State Farm Neighborhood Assist online contest. Lori registered the project with State Farm for a $25,000 grant. On April 4th we’ll find out if the Town Brook is selected as one of 200 projects nation-wide for the final stage of the contest. There will be a Facebook voting campaign with the top 40 vote-getters receiving grants. The city previously won a $10,000 Readers Digest grant, so this is doable!

The engineers at Farnsworth Group are also optimistic that the Town Brook will be recognized as an especially unique project, and can pull in grants. A recreational path along the creek will provide east-west connectivity for the town, and would be a great project for transportation grants as well as recreational grants. And, if you’ve ever tried to walk or ride your bike along Morton Avenue, with its helter skelter sidewalks and business pull-in traffic, you know pedestrians need a safe way to get to destinations in this major business district.

But, getting back to the question of cost — there’s actually two ways to look at this. How much does will it cost to do this, and how much will it cost to not do this.

Jacksonville has commissioned studies about the community, and Terry Denison at the Jacksonville Regional Economic Development Corporation said the results find our community does a great job offering amenities to seniors, but we fall short in offering things to do for youth and especially young families. Right now people go to Springfield and other places to have fun. Unless we invest in our community and start building more places for these young families to have fun here, we’re going to lose them. And we’re going to have a harder time attracting businesses, employers and new people to town.

The Town Brook project means . . .

. . . all these things highlight some of the best features of Jacksonville, encourage people to get out and be active and healthy, give families a safe place to have fun with their children, boost quality of life and encourage economic development, improve neighborhoods, and boost values of adjoining properties.

The Town Brook project has great potential to boost Jacksonville. This is an investment in our infrastructure — physical and social. Please get involved.

Be sure to like us on Facebook, and go there and message us if you’re not already on our monthly email newsletter list.

Written by Steve Warmowski

The City of Jacksonville has set the date for the spring 2013 cleanup of the Town Brook for Saturday morning April 20th. This was one of the items covered in the city council’s Town Brook Special Studies Committee meeting this morning.

Alderman Lori Large Oldenettel said the spring cleanup will follow the format of the fall cleanup. Work went from 8:30-11:30 am, folks met at the old Midland’s parking lot, had to be 18 or over to participate. Follow updates, developments and details on the our community group’s Facebook page. Start spreading the date of April 20th (rain date April 27th). Completing the cleanup will get the city a $500 grant from the EPA’s SCALE fund (Streambank Cleanup & Lakeshore Enhancement).

Until then, here’s a challenge for everyone — where does all the trash in the Town Brook come from? The late Roger Zulauf pushed for a park along the Town Brook, and would tell his students at Turner Junior High School “if it blows, it flows.” Meaning anything that blows around at Turner or along Morton ends up in the Town Brook. Take it upon yourself to try to find the sources of garbage that ends up in the creek. That way we can work with business owners and the city to try to find ways to cut the flow of trash.

Other highlights from the meeting . . .

  • Mayor Andy Ezard will get the special studies committee in touch with the city’s new lobbyist, to see if he can help snag some grants/funds for development of the park along the Town Brook.
  • Bruce Surratt of the city’s parks & lakes department is working with the Illinois Department of Transportation to approve plans for putting up a pedestrian/bicyclist bridge below the Lake Jacksonville spillway. Once this is complete people will be able to safely get around the lake and better take advantage of the community’s major recreational spot.
  • Farnsworth Group planners will be asked to meet with city officials and the public to give the results of the community input day. Tentative date is Monday May 13th at 5:30 pm (before the city council meeting).
  • Alderman Lori Large Oldenettel registered the Town Brook for a State Farm $25,000 Neighborhood Assist Grant. If our community gets to the next stage of one of 200 projects nation-wide, starting April 4th people can vote on Facebook with the top 40 receiving grants. Get the Facebook App at
  • Alderman Oldenettel also gave a report on last month’s Town Brook Improvement Project Community Input Day (see story). She reports good feedback from neighboring property owners, who pointed out the town brook is already used by local children and as a short-cut by pedestrians. She also said thinking outside the box will make it more likely for the community to get grants. So, beyond a park, think outdoor learning, place for community gardens, a way to fight childhood obesity.
  • City Treasurer Ron Smiljanich reminds us “just one person can make a difference.” He’s been picking up trash along the Town Brook, and reminds everyone they can do the same, every day. Thanks to all those who care about the community who do this!

Posted by Steve Warmowski. Follow us on Facebook.

We had a great turnout Thursday 21 February 2013 for the Jacksonville Town Brook Improvement Project Community Input Day. Engineers said in other towns they’ve sat around for a day while two people stopped in. This time they had a steady stream of people from the community coming to give their input. Thanks for your support!

Farnsworth Group sent two of their planners — Bruce Brown, a landscape architect, and (Jacksonville native) Kevin Hannel, engineer. (Neat side point — Bruce’s uncle was the first president of the Naperville Riverwalk 30 years ago, mentioned before in our blog. The walk is one of the community features that puts the Chicago suburb at the top of the best places to live in the United States. We can have a little bit of that here in Jacksonville!)

Highlights are below. If you don’t see your idea, you still can be heard by emailing ideas @townbrook_com or call Lori Oldenettel 217.370.4597 before the end of the month by Thursday 2/28. Farnsworth Group will work with all the ideas and suggestions, and present a master plan the city can follow in the future.

One of the best parts of the day was during the time for people who live next to the Town Brook. Two different families came, both expresses interest and excitement with the project. They hoped the project would address some of the flooding and maintenance along the Town Brook, and were receptive to the idea of public use of the land behind their homes. “People have walked there for years and enjoyed it.” So what we’re proposing with the Town Brook isn’t a radical new idea – it’s formalizing what already happens unofficially, and invites the whole community to take advantage of this community resource.

Another highlight of the day was during the city official segment when Bruce Surratt of the city’s Parks & Lakes Department said he’s been fielding numerous phone calls from people who want to know when they’re going to be able to start using a path along the Town Brook. “Are we going to be able to ride along the Town Brook Path to get out to the lake to watch the 4th of July fireworks” Surratt reported one enthusiastic caller asked. It’s great to see how much excitement this project proposal is garnering in the community!

To sum up the day, it looks like the anchor points of a Town Brook recreational path will start at Illinois College/YMCA and follow city land to MacMurray College. Along the brook add trees and put in wildflowers that grow knee-to-waist tall. A path along the brook at certain points would divert onto neighboring sidewalks or streets. There would be side paths off the Town Brook recreational path to pull in destinations such as the downtown Jacksonville, Washington School, Franklin School and Community Park. Focus also on improving the health and flow of the stream.

The beginning and end points can later be extended to run to Wal-Mart and future development west of Jacksonville along the US 67 corridor, and connect with a bike route to Lake Jacksonville via Massey Lane and Airport Road; beyond MacMurray a bike route can run on Routt Street, connect to the Our Saviour School fields plus railroad land south of College and Foreman Grove. After that connect north along Mauvaisterre Creek to the north end of town, connect with Pioneer Woods and the Pioneer Heritage Foundation Zion Park off east State Street, pedestrian bridge at the Old State Road bridge gets people back on State Street east past the Gen. Grierson Home and back to MacMuarry College and downtown Jacksonville.

Farnsworth Group will present an outline study to the city council sometime this spring. The city then needs to go ahead to Phase 3 which would be a more extensive study and planning. Please keep communicating with your city alderman your support of this project, and your support of funding Phase 3!

Extended notes:

The day was broken up into half-hour blocks set aside for different members of the community, such as city leaders, colleges, adjacent property owners and business.

Special Studies Jacksonville Town Brook Improvement Committee & City Council Members
The day started with city officials, from the city council, administration and the Special Studies Jacksonville Town Brook Improvement Committee. Kelly Hall of the Inspections Department said planning for land to the east of Lincoln to MacMurray College will be easiest, because it’s already owned by the city or has easements. Bruce Surratt of the city’s Parks & Lakes Department said he was getting phone calls from community members excited about the project (above). Bruce pointed out the “Looking Back” feature in the Jacksonville Journal-Courier talked about getting funding to take down the quad buildings on the square 10 years ago, and like the downtown project it’ll take some time to get from planning to progress. He said other communities like Springfield were lucky to have abandoned rail corridors to convert from rails to trails. While Jacksonville, as a railroad center, still has all their rail lines active. “We don’t have a blank canvas, we have a torn up canvas that needs to be fixed.”

Lots of mention was made of trash (fast food bags, wrappers, napkins) blowing in off of Morton and into the Town Brook. Alderman Don Cook, who was part of the fall cleanup, said the section that his crew made spotless is now full of trash again. Challenges of enforcing littering laws is that you have to catch people tossing. Maybe a fence could be put in at the back of business to catch blowing trash. Also, as the Town Brook becomes a park, and a path, and people walk around and see trash with a big logo on it, it’ll come back to that business and they’ll take responsibility for their trash. Giving attention to the Town Brook will bring civic pride and involvement, that would encourage businesses to take steps to keep their trash out of the parkway.

Illinois College’s Larry Zettler (city’s special studies committee) said the Town Brook is a great resource for educational opportuntities. Not just for science, but for all students. MacMurray College’s Nadine Szczepanski (also of the city’s study committee) said students from Mac as well can help plant native grasses and wildflowers and make for a beautiful and clean brook through town. Both college professors love the project. The brook can also have WiFi hotspots, allowing for outdoor labs and for on-site classes on the Town Brook.

City should be open to private donations. Farnsworth Group guys said companies, corporations, donors won’t give for maintenance, but will donate a shelter, benches, etc. things that are visible.

Farnsworth Group suggested anchors to start and end the path, like Illinois College/YMCA to MacMurray College. The end points can expand later to Wal-Mart and west (connect to bike route down Massey Lane, Airport Road and to Lake Jacksonville) and to Foreman Grove and east to North East side of town.

Main Street/Jacksonville Visitors and Conventions Bureau

Brittany Henry of the Jacksonville Visitors and Conventions Bureau gave some ideas for places in town for a path to connect to. The designers suggest that you tie in connections to the Town Brook path, to places like downtown square, schools like Washington, and historical sights like the Grierson Home.

A path could go north/east from Foreman Grove on the east side of town, east side of Mauvaisterre Creek; to the Pioneer Heritage Park and then over the old State Street crossing (removed) with a pedestrian bridge; head west back into town hitting the Grierson Home; and back into downtown square and reconnect to the path via the Main Street connection.

Jacksonville Main Street interested in the connecting downtown square and businesses to traffic on the Town brook path at the Main Street crossing. Farnsworth Group previously presented scenic overlook drawings, and this would be the spot to really play up the brook. Put in a rock wall bank, nice trail, pretty flowers. Maybe even close the Mauvaisterre Street East/West off Main and turn that area into a wide spot in the creek, with a little dam to make a pool, water fountain or other water feature.

Outdoor nature classrooms, for use by colleges or by grade schools or junior high. Can add other amenities like open spaces, sand lot baseball, ice rink, restrooms, shelter, places to grill out.

Illinois College & MacMurray College

MacMurray is tearing down Blackstock Hall, in floodplain on south campus. Will be part of a green space that community can use. Mac is interested in having the Town Brook path go right through campus. Farnsworth Group was happy to get this info, because they didn’t know if they had to work around the campus.

Illinois College representatives were also excited about the project, and would love to connect both campuses via a bike trail. Something like this would give recreational opportunities for students, faculty, staff and tie the community into the campus. The Town Brook would also beautify the south side of campus, and welcome people to the college.

Adjacent Property Owners – mentioned above.

Landowners from Fayette Court and West Chambers attended. Said people have walked along the Town brook for years, and enjoyed it, acts as a short cut to Morton Avenue. People use the Town Brook now, just not officially. Interested in adding trees, making area nicer. Added benefits of clearing up flow to reduce flooding. Farnsworth Group said in other communities along a bike path neighboring properties could get a $5,000 boost in property values. Helpful for resale. Plus in new developments that include paths, lots directly adjacent to the path sell first and have higher value.

Woods Lane Bike Group/ Other Bike Groups

The Woods Lane Mountain Bikers were not able to come (they all had to work the snow) but Steve represented them. They’ve build a great system of trails off Woods Lane around Lake Mauvaisterre. They would like to see a bike path that connect the Town Brook path to their bike network, then on to Lake Jacksonville and a new mountain biking network. They also offered manpower to work along the Town Brook.

Other cyclists (road) have said the Town Brook path can be a safe way to get cyclists out of town where they ride low-traffic country roads. A Town Brook path would help the creation of a bike path to Lake Jacksonville.

General Public – due to snowstorm, no members of the general public came. Farnsworth Group engineer and landscape architect talked to WLDS radio reporter, then headed home.

Random notes

Timeframe on Brook — some things can start soon, like planting trees and putting in wildflowers. Can have project in different phases. But to transform the whole stream might take 20 years or more.

Suggestion was made to include windmills or other alternative energy generation on the parkway as a demonstration project. Bruce Brown said this could be part of the lighting on Town Brook. Said there’s LED lighting system with poles 12-15 foot off the ground, no underground cables, with devices to capture solar and wind energy. Important not to do ground-level lighting, which can create dark spots and require more lighting than an overhead system. Some spots might have emergency call boxes (like the blue-light stations on Illinois College campus).

Improve health of stream, give place for fish. Re-meander in spots, riparian areas.

Connect to Jacksonville history, connection to Underground Railroad, freed slaves would move into city along Town Brook and later be taken to Underground Railroad homes for safe keeping.

Plant prairie, mix of native wildflowers and grasses that would grow to about waist high. Would need to prairie smoke management every three years to control invasive and protect prairie. Dry prairie.

Decking — have flat areas with access to water in Town Brook.

You can put up a temporary ice rink on a spot of grass along creek (about $5,000 for walls etc to make rink). Harkens back to historic Ashelby Pond near current County Market where people would skate, ice would be cut out and stored in an ice house for use in ice boxes, plus city later used pond as a water source for municipal water supply.

Kayak Water Park — no whitewater in town, but there’s some pretty deep pools in Mauvaisterre Creek on the east side of town. Check out the waterway at the closed State Street crossing sometime (east side of creek, by the Pioneer Heritage Park).