PALOS HILLS | Trail supporters attending the 2012 Bridges & Blues event will be the first to experience how the Cal-Sag Trail will connect to the communities, forest preserves, schools and train stations along its 30-mile length on Nov. 3, at Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills.
Bridges & Blues is the Friends of the Cal-Sag Trail’s fourth annual fundraiser to benefit the design and construction of the Cal-Sag Trail, and their second showcasing a critically acclaimed Chicago bluesman. This year Toronzo Cannon and his Cannonball Express will take to the stage.
“The Cal-Sag’s awash in the Blues,” says Friends president Debbie Stoffregen. “Muddy Waters, Hound Dog Taylor, Will Dixon, and many other blues legends were laid to rest along the corridor. We love to bring this part of our corridor’s heritage to life.”
To celebrate the completion of the Cal-Sag Trail Wayfinding and Development Plan this fall, Friends of the Cal-Sag Trail are incorporating design elements from the plan, including scale models of the 14-foot high, steel beam-like wayfinding signs, into the event’s decor. To enter the event’s main room, attendees will cross over a scale model of the signature steel truss bridges that cross the canal.
At Bridges & Blues, attendees will be able to explore all of the plan’s recommendations on display boards around the room. Many of the design elements offer opportunities for dedications and sponsorship. Trails around the country have become important outlets for sponsored messages promoting healthy living and environmental stewardship.
“We have six world-class hospitals in the corridor or just a few minutes from it, and countless workplaces and communities all struggling to encourage healthy living and leaving a smaller carbon footprint. The Cal-Sag Trail’s projected to host thousands of users every week. It could be a powerful tool for them,” Stoffregen said.
Tickets for Bridges & Blues are $75, and include dinner, beer and wine, dancing, and live and silent auctions. Purchase tickets online at http://bridgesandblues.org; to purchase off-line, email friends@calsagtrail or call (708) 365-9365. For more information about the Friends of the Cal-Sag Trail, visit http://calsagtrail.org.
The Wayfinding & Development Plan was completed by engineering and planning firm URS for the Cal-Sag Trail Coalition, the consortium of communities and public agencies who will connect to the trail. The Friends of the Cal-Sag Trail secured a $260,000 grant for the coalition from U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin’s office to produce the plan, and raised more than $50,000 to provide the necessary 20 percent local matching funds.
“We learned from looking at similar trails across the country that busy, successful trails have consistent identity, good wayfinding so people know where they are, interesting destination points and great access for each community,” Stoffregen said. “All of that isn’t really very common in Illinois. We wanted the plan to help the coalition build the Cal-Sag Trail right.”
In addition to defining a Cal-Sag Trail logo and wayfinding signs, the plan includes gateways along the trail at community boundaries that evoke the channel’s iconic truss bridges, and a signature trail bridge across the Little Calumet at Blue Island’s Fay’s Point to the Forest Preserve District of Cook County’s Calumet Woods. The plan also highlights destination opportunities, including a look-out platform cantilevered over the waterway at Anne Street in Blue Island, an ampitheater in Palos Park, environmental interpretation at Burnham Prairie, and a Freedom Seekers memorial and interpretative site in Dolton.
Helping people to get excited about the trail is key to the next phase of the trail’s development: construction. The trail is on track for a spring construction bid letting, which means shovels in the ground by late summer. Some sections could be open by next fall.
The Friends of the Cal-Sag Trail will use dollars raised from Bridges & Blues to help the coalition pay for the recommended wayfinding signs and other amenities. Eighty percent of the cost is covered by a second grant for approximately $300,000 through Durbin’s office, also secured by the Friends.