Celebrating 50 Years

In the 1960’s a local environmentalist’s dream became a reality and paved the way for many paths across America.

Officials and volunteers recently gathered in the DuPage County board room for a press conference remembering one of the proudest works of May Theilgaard Watts, the Illinois Prairie Path.

In 1963, Watts wrote a letter to the editor of the Chicago Tribune, simply titled, “Future Footpath?” in which she proposed transforming the abandoned Chicago, Aurora and Elgin Railroad line into a nature preserve. Her thought quickly became a reality, and the nation’s first rails to trails path conversion was created.

“In the U.S. alone, there are over 20,000 miles of abandoned railroads that have turned into bicycle paths,” said Bob Sobie, President of the Illinois Prairie Path.

Richard Wilson’s Boy Scout troop volunteered to help clean up the path in 1965, and decades later he’s still involved.

”You just get hooked,” he said. “You get addicted.”

The path is about 62 miles long, runs through Cook, DuPage and Kane Counties and is a place for walkers, cyclists, and horseback riders to enjoy.

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