by T. C. Mayfield, The Chicago Times
WESTERN SPRINGS (IL) – Forest Preserves of Cook County failed to clear debris along Bemis South’s Salt Creek trail near the I-294 overpass, making trails dangerous for hikers.
Springtime in the Forest Preserves of Cook County is a beautiful place for hiking and family outings, but not so much when venturing on less traveled trails in Bemis South. From the controlled burn fires left to smolder without supervision to the muddy unpaved trails, hikers can expect to find a dangerous debris pile that looks to have been piling up for years.
A marked intermediate trail in the Northwest corner of Bemis South is supposed to safely connect hikers to the Dorothy and Sam Dean Nature Sanctuary in Oak Brook just west of I-294. A trial passes beneath the I-294 overpass guiding hikers through a dark deserted area into the safety of the nature sanctuary. The trail connection is made even more dangerous by a growing debris pile that has either been dumped or washed up by Salt Creek over the years.
An unnamed FPCC official declined comment as they entered a black Mercedes and sped off. Our sources within FPCC indicated that debris piles are common at some sites and are caused by nature or illegal dumping of landscaping debris. They added that hikers must be aware of their surroundings and that FPCC will clear trails when time allows.
Several hikers interviewed near the debris site commented that passing under the overpass was dangerous enough but walking on a slanted concrete walkway with a debris pile only increases the chances for injury not to mention the growing rodent problems in the area. One hiker, Miss Anna Beasley, commented:
“It is enough to fear being mugged or attacked, but to also risk falling into a pile of jagged wood and left to be eaten by rats is unacceptable. They need to get this cleaned up. Don’t they care about the environment?”
Counties of Cook and DuPage have some of the best forest preserve trials and facilities in Illinois. Funding decreases from the COVID-19 economic downturn may reduce revenues for the preserve districts. Sources indicated that maintenance and restoration projects should not be negatively affected in the long run. Most of the trails are in good shape and, just like homeowners, the FPCC needs time for spring cleaning.