Is Riverside ready for a bike trail? Cook County Board commissioner and Riverside resident Anthony Peraica thinks so.
On Monday night, Peraica appeared before the Riverside Board of Trustees, pitching them a proposal to make the village fill the missing link in a trail that would extend from the historic Chicago Portage site south of 47 Street near Harlem Avenue to the Busse Woods in the northwest suburbs.
“What we’re hoping to get tonight is an indication, a statement that this is worthwhile to pursue,” Peraica said. “If a majority feels it’s worthwhile, then we can continue discussions. If it’s not desirable, there’s no point in wasting anyone’s time.”
While Peraica fell short of getting a statement that the village board supported the idea, trustees didn’t reject it out of hand either. Rather, Village President Harold J. Wiaduck Jr. said the board needed more specifics about how such a trail might pass through Riverside’s boundaries.
“We need to know more about workable options,” Wiaduck said. “We haven’t said yes, but we haven’t said no, either.”
Over the past several years, the Cook County Forest Preserve District has been investing in and encouraging the construction of bike trails within its boundaries and has received cooperation from some DuPage County municipalities to help link the Busse Woods trails to the Salt Creek Bike Trail in western Cook County.
At the same time, the Forest Preserve District is in the process of creating a trail from the Portage site to the Cermak Woods, which is about to get a facelift thanks to $4.3 million in state funds to refurbish the shuttered Cermak Pool.
The Cermak Woods trail is already under construction and will be completed this summer. The tough part of the equation is linking the Cermak Woods trail with the Salt Creek Trail, which ends at the Brookfield Woods, just north of 31st Street near McCormick Avenue in Brookfield.
Daniel White, a landscape architect for the Cook County Forest Preserve District said there were several options for making that connection.
The first would be to continue the trail east from the Brookfield Woods along 31st Street to Woodside Road, head south on Woodside to the Burlington Northern railroad tracks and then over the swinging bridge into Riverside Lawn and then across Ogden Avenue to the Cermak Woods.
The second options would be to have the trail travel east on 31st Street to First Avenue, south to Forest Avenue and into downtown Riverside before going over the tracks to the swinging bridge.
Thirdly, the trail could come east on 31st Street to First Avenue, south to Forest, east on Forest to West Avenue, south on West Avenue to Pine Avenue and into downtown Riverside before heading over the swinging bridge.
But Trustee Cindy Gustafson said she would rule out any route that used Forest Avenue, saying the street was too narrow to accommodate a path, especially over the Des Plaines River bridge.
Previous plans for a bike path in Riverside had also suggested using Forest Avenue, Gustafson said, and were voted down.
But using Woodside Road would also be a problem, said Wiaduck, since the street on school days is one-way heading north, which would present an obvious dilemma for cyclists heading south during those times.
Peraica argued that the bike path would be good for Riverside since it might bring more bicycle and foot traffic through the village’s downtown business district. In addition, he said, “it adds a nice recreational aspect to the overall west suburban area and Riverside in particular.”
If Riverside opts out, Peraica said he would continue to push for linking the Brookfield Woods with the Cermak Woods via the forest preserves along First Avenue and then east on Ogden and through residential streets in Lyons.
However, that solution also has its challenges. Chief among them is that the portion of First Avenue where a bike path would run is in the flood plain.
“That’s one of the reasons Riverside would be a good option to connect the trails,” White said.
Trustees, while open to the idea of the trail, said they wanted more detailed information on the plan, including maps before making any commitment to the plan. Wiaduck said he also wanted to get input from members of the community who may fall on either side of the issue.
“There are still issues,” Wiaduck said. “There’s a difficult traffic pattern in the downtown area, which is compounded by the rail crossing. I’d be interested in getting more specific detail. … If we could get those, we will take a good hard look at it.”