An Open Letter to Friends of the East Branch DuPage River Trail (EBDRT)
From: Ginger Wheeler, president, Friends of the EBDRT
Friends: Summer 2021 has been rocky, bumpy and uncertain, in more ways than one. We all know the turmoil going on in the world. One could also say there are some bumps in the path toward development and construction of the EBDRT as well. (Puns intentional). Trail news has been trickling out, but then changing fast. Hopefully, this article will help you better understand what’s happening now and how you can help, from our perspective. There’s a lot of good news/bad news/some news/no news. We are sharing what we know now as of Sept 1, 2021:
The good news is that our Representatives at the County and Federal level continue to work towards development of eventual construction of the East Branch DuPage River Trail (EBDRT).
The bad news is the County has not yet secured funding for the next phase of the trail project. But, there are plenty of funding opportunities ahead! Politicians need a nudge from you to make the East Branch Trail a priority and start the next phase of engineering.
Read on for more specific updates and quick ways you can help keep up momentum for the EBDRT for the federal, county and local levels:
Staff from Sixth District Congressman Sean Casten's office indicated in early August that Representative Casten managed to secure $1.2 million in funding for the East Branch DuPage River Trail as a part of the House version of the surface transportation authorization bill with support from DuPage County’s Dept. of Transportation. This was part of the $1 trillion infrastructure bill that we read about in mid-July, 2021, in the Daily Herald.
Unfortunately, all “Member Designated Projects” (also known as earmarks) were stripped out of the version of the bill that passed the Senate, including the funding for the EBDRT.
Representative Casten’s office let us know that, despite the earmark being removed, funding for the Federal Aid Highway Program (which is the pot of money that funds the Surface Transportation Block Grant program that funds work on projects like the EBDRT) is set to increase by about 30 percent for CMAP (the Chicago agency that designates the most worthy projects and arranges for long-range planning for transportation projects throughout Chicagoland) - hopefully meaning there are more opportunities to gain funding for the EBDRT through normal funding procedures once the bill does pass (it hasn't yet, as of Sept 1, 2021).
What YOU can do:
#1. Send a thank you note to Sean Casten for his help to show your support and gratitude!
#2. Contact Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning and DuPage Mayors and Managers and any local government officials to tell them why you want the East Branch Trail.
Friends met with DuPage County Chairman Dan Cronin in his office and then attended the DuPage County Board meeting on July 13 to make some public comments. This went well and we are so appreciative of the support of the Chairman and the entire DuPage County Board (who have all voted to support the project in the past).
Friends heard that District 4 County Board Members, Grant Eckoff, Mary Ozog, Lynn LaPlante and a designated representative from the Glen Ellyn Environmental Commission had a meeting with DuPage County Dept of Transportation head Chris Snyder on August 23. This is fantastic! We are so thrilled our District 4 reps are meeting and advocating on our behalf and that the village of Glen Ellyn is supportive and has designated an official liaison to the County to make the EBDRT a reality!
What YOU can do:
3. If you live in District 4: Send thank you notes to your County Board reps Grant Eckhoff, Mary Ozog, and Lynn LaPlante and Glen Ellyn Village President Mark Senak for participating in this meeting. Let them know your thoughts about the trail!
4. Send a thank you note to Chairman Dan Cronin and to DuPage County Transportation Director Chris Snyder to ask them to continue their work on the EBDRT.
Local Concerns: Choosing the Route
The Friends of EBDRT have been advised that a fifth steering committee meeting is being planned for "some time in September" to further discuss the planned alignment and next steps, presumably for the alignment between Roosevelt and Butterfield Roads. The steering committee is made up of staff from the various public or quasi-public organizations that must be included in decision-making regarding a public trail because the land they manage on behalf of the public is involved. These organizations include park districts, villages, ComEd, Glenbard Waste Water, etc. These are not public meetings because they are staff planning meetings. However, Friends is grateful to be invited to represent the opinions of trail supporting citizens and also pleased when elected representatives are also included.
There are around 5,000 signatures on our petition, incuding those on paper petitions and the online version at change.org. The trail is something that everyone wants-- it's just a matter of getting it completely done and connecting various portions that are already built to each other to make a continuous path for hikers, runners, walkers, bicyclers and those seeking natural recreation and active transportation. Keep displaying those yard signs and talking to your neighbors and politicians. We know that by working together and staying in touch with our elected officials, the East Branch Trail can be a reality!
Here’s what the Friends of the EBDRT have done this summer to promote development and construction of the trail:
• June 22: Organized a “Ride to Work” with the Chairman of DuPage County, Dan Cronin
• July 13: Met with Chairman Cronin to thank him and attended DuPage County Board Meeting• July: Participated in two tabling events through the Intelligentsia Cup Bicycle Racing Event, where hundreds of signatures were gathered, including those of the leaders of both Glen Ellyn (Village President Mark Senak) and Lombard (Lombard Mayor Keith Giagnorio). Big thanks to Glen Ellyn’s Jim Burket and the Illinois Prairie Path for enabling our participation in Glen Ellyn.
• July 18: County Board Member Greg Hart and Friends' president Ginger Wheeler featured with Raza Saddiqui on his radio show “Against the Grain” on WCPT-AM820. Click here to give it a listen.
• August: County Board Member Greg Hart and Friends' vice president Steve Johnson were taped for a TV interview to air during September 2021 in Naperville on Jane Wernette’s show Spotlight on NCTV17. Watch it now here
• August: Presented to Lombard Chamber of Commerce and Carol Stream Rotary
• August: Glen Ellyn appointed an official liaison to its Environmental Committee to act on behalf of EBDRT. Thank you to Village President Mark Senak for this action and to Karin Daly for fulfilling the role!
READ ABOUT MORE PROGRESS ON OUR PROGRESS PAGE