Bridges To Trails

Widespread community involvement and buy-in reaps great rewards for the city and its parks and recreation department, as various local groups (such as a bike or snowmobile club) may agree to maintain a section of the trail, or local companies may happily donate to the cause through in-kind or cash donations. Done right, trail-building is the proverbial win-win.

“The planning work you’re doing now is building the trail in the minds of the people who live along the way. The better your graphics, the better you are at illustrating what your point is and how you want to achieve it, looking three-dimensionally at the area, getting intimately knowledgeable of what your surroundings are and knowing what the constraints are will help you in your planning. The team you assemble locally — your coalition, really — should include local professionals, like people who have legal and property knowledge, and concerned citizens who share the vision,” adds Bellovics.

Trails to Reality

Because Savanna took this advice to heart, it was able to help fulfill the big-picture vision of the Grand Illinois Trail, the Mississippi River Trail and the Great River Trail, while taking an important step toward fulfilling a long-range local goal — making Savanna a destination.

Paul Hartman, public works director for the City of Savanna, says the trail is driving further riverfront and park development, including such possibilities as boat rentals and other amenities.

The trail, the resulting development and enhancements and a nationwide marketing blitz are hoped to bring Savanna closer to its goal, says Hartman.

The city will tout the unique aspects of its trail section, namely the wildlife, wetlands (including rivers and ponds) and two spectacular bridges, one that spans the Plum River and another that crosses over railroad tracks.

Hartman says the bridge over the railroad tracks proved to be the trail’s biggest challenge as the railroad changed hands three times, making final plans hard to come by as the plan would often shift with the railroad’s ownership.

Unfortunately, this area was the best place for the trail as alternates were untenable due to environmental and engineering constraints.

“The environmental issues are the key. One of our biggest challenges was meeting those requirements,” says Mike Leslie, structural engineer for Willett Hofmann & Associates, Dixon, Ill.

“You need to know everyone who owns anything adjacent to the trail. We had to purchase property or get easements from the railroad. The trail is also adjacent to the Upper Mississippi Fish & Wildlife Refuge, run by U.S. Fish & Wildlife, so we had to get easements, and they had stipulations on the use of their land, which included no motorized vehicles on the path in their area. You need to be aware of who owns it and what kind of stipulations they have if you need to cross their property or purchase property from them.”

Willett Hofmann & Associates designed the trails and bridges for Savanna’s three-mile section. The truss portions of the two bridges were fabricated and delivered by Wheeler Consolidated, Bloomington, Minn. The bridge piers and path were built by Ronald Moring Construction, McConnell, Ill., which also set the trusses on the piers and abutments.

The bridge over the railroad is 1,135 feet long and 15 spans. The bridge running over the river is 220 feet long. Both utilize hardwood decks and weathering steel.

Leslie says they chose the weathering steel and Ipe — a South American hardwood — to cut down on long-term maintenance. He says the steel rusts naturally for a rustic look and doesn’t require painting. Additionally, the hardwood is extremely dense and is naturally rot, insect and fire-resistant. It does not need to be stained or treated, and is vandal-resistant, Leslie adds.

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  3. Alabama Trails Conference
  4. Happy Trails
  5. National Trails Fund Grants

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