Palos Heights paves the way onto Cal-Sag Trail

Nearly a year after ground was broken on the western section of the 26-mile Calumet-Sag Trail, people are already pounding the path, at least as it exists in Palos Heights.

“I love this, and so does my family,” said Palos Heights resident Cheri Sullivan, as she joined her husband, Brian, daughter, Chloe, 5, and son, Bryan, 2, for a stroll on a recent Saturday. “I grew up in Alsip, so yeah, when I first heard they were building this trail, I thought, ‘Who’d want to walk or bike along the Cal-Sag?’ I mean, really—the Cal-Sag?

“But we decided to give it a whirl, and here we are, enjoying the trail and all the natural beauty I never knew was here,” she added as her family walked west toward Harlem Avenue and the Lake Katherine Nature Center and Botanical Gardens.

She plans to invite her family from outside the area to walk the trail with her later this year.

“We’ll make a day of it,” she said. “We’ll start on the trail, do Lake Katherine, head over to Jullianni’s or another place for lunch, and then back to our house and possibly Sam Buca’s for a few drinks in the evening.”

Sullivan’s plans are exactly the type of thing that trail enthusiasts envisioned a decade ago, when about a dozen advocates and local leaders met over pizza at the Lake Katherine.

“This is something people have worked for, and when it’s complete it will connect with trails that lead to many others places,” said Palos Heights resident Bill Poore, a longtime trail advocate. The state’s trail network extends west to the Mississippi River.

More than a pleasant walk, the Cal-Sag Trail is expected to improve the health of nearby communities, advocates say.

  • It will attack obesity and sedentary lifestyles by offering an attractive exercise option to the estimated 185,000 people who live less than a mile from it.
  • It will contribute to environmental health by encouraging people to leave their cars, vans and trucks at home and choosing walking and bicycling instead.
  • It will give a shot in the arm to local businesses by bringing thousands of consumers to the area.
  • “If the Cal-Sag Trail were a health club, it would be a 3.7 million square foot recreational and fitness facility that serves everyone and costs nothing join,” the not-for-profit Friends of the Cal-Sag Trail proclaims on its website.

Taking the trail

When completed, the trail will extend from Lemont on the west to the Burham Greenway (near the state border with Indiana) on the east, and it will be the longest in the South Suburbs, eight miles longer than the Old Plank Road Trail, according to Friends of the Cal-Sag Trail.

Bicylists are already taking the trail eastbound from Palos Heights through the wilds of Lake Katherine’s eastern preserve along the Cal-Sag to Alsip’s Freedom Park at Kostner Avenue. The westbound trail is winding its way toward Palos Park along the channel below Southwest Highway.

Bike riders can also enter the trail just east of Lake Katherine using the newly paved trunk into the woods along the channel at Oak Park Avenue and Route 83, across from Chicago Christian High School.

While the trail is not officially open, people seem to be swarming to it, even with a winter that hung on stubbornly.

“How can you stop them?” asked Palos Heights Parks and Recreation Director Mike Leonard. “It’s a fabulous trail.”

Leonard, a cycling enthusiast, plans to use the trail to bicycle from his near his home in Lemont all the way to work on 127th Street in Palos Heights, this year, as soon as the western edge of the trail, near Route 83 and Route 171, is paved in a few weeks.

He noted that trail organizers, elected officials and business and tourism officials will cut the ribbon on the Palos Heights section of the rail in early June, near National Trails Day, and stage an event at which people will be invited to use the trail that day.

“It’s hard to underestimate the positive economic impact of this trail,” Leonard added. He pointed to the Monon Trail, just north of Indianapolis, as an example of a successful trail, used by more than 4,000 people daily, which has been credited with creating jobs, boosting tourism, and increasing residential and commercial property values.

He predicted that the Cal-Sag Trail will be the best utilized trail in the area, second only to the 18-mile-long Chicago Lakefront Trail.

            For more information on the project, visit calsagtrail.org online.

 3cols Trail ArtistsRendering 041615-copy

Supplied artist’s rendering

Eastbound from Palos Heights: Bicyclists can take the Cal-Sag trail from Palos Heights’ Lake Katherine as far east as Alsip’s Freedom Park at Kostner Avenue. Here is a point looking east toward the Harlem Avenue bridge.

2cols TrailWayfaringSigns 041615-copy

Supplied photo

Wayfaring sign directs Cal-Sag Trail traffic to business areas to shop or dine and other points of interest along the way.

3cols TrailNearLakeKatherine 41615-copy

A leafy section of the newly paved trail at Palos Heights was completed by last fall.


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