Pedestrian Bridge to Link Hennepin, Vast Preserve

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Mayor hopes to attract tourists, families, hikers and cyclists

The Dixon Waterfowl Refuge has made Hennepin a popular destination for birdwatchers, anglers and hikers.

Hennepin could become a bicyclists destination, too, whenever a prefabricated bridge over Coffee Creek is finally put into place to link the village to the Marquis Oak Ridge Trail — the first bicycle-friendly trail at the refuge.

Part of the trail along the north side of the refuge parallels Coffee Creek.

When the bridge goes in, it can create a loop including the village and refuge, one village official hopes.

When the village of Hennepin widened High Street, it became better for bicyclists and pedestrians. High Street is the main road that leads from Route 26 directly into town and toward the riverfront, courthouse and parks. There’s a parking lot for the Marquis trail to the south of Coffee Creek and west of Route 26.

Mayor Kevin Coleman said the bridge to complete the loop can help make the refuge and Hennepin a more attractive destination, especially for people staying at Starved Rock Lodge or near the state park and looking for a day trip.

He said he hopes bids can be let and the bridge can be installed this spring.

Paul Botts, president of The Wetlands Initiative, which manages the preserve, noted there is not a bike lane on Route 26. He does, however, like the idea of providing a bicycling link between the village and the trail at the north edge of the preserve.

Botts said naturalists and others at TWI had some concerns about allowing bicycles into the preserve, but if they stay strictly on the trail, it would be a win-win for the village and the project. He said one of The Wetlands Initiative’s goals in the past couple of years has been to attract more visitors to appreciate and understand the nature restoration efforts that are happening south of Hennepin.

Botts said he believes Hennepin has the necessary permits as well as funds for the bridge from a bequest from the Durley Boyle estate, and TWI and the village have worked out an understanding for the village to install the bridge on TWI property and then allow TWI to use it.

The 2.7-mile Marquis Oak Ridge Trail leads through rich, restored wetland, prairie, and savanna habitats at the Dixon Waterfowl Refuge, according to The Wetlands Initiative, which is varied types of habitat at the refuge.

A $100,000 grant from Marquis Energy, LLC, of Hennepin made the 2.7-mile trail’s construction possible. Additional funding from Dr. Scholl Foundation, Dynegy Hennepin Power Station and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Illinois Wildlife Preservation Fund supported completion of the trail amenities and signage over the past two years, along with contributions from individual donors to the Wetlands Initiative, according to TWI.

Source: News Tribune