Grandma is in CHARGE

[FOCST president Debbie Stoffregen’s speech at the Cal-Sag Trail western segment ribbon cutting, June 6, 2015. More photos at]

Thank you Mayor Straz.

How exciting is this?

I’m thrilled to see all of you and appreciate you coming out and helping us celebrate this wonderful event.

I want to share with you a few of the posts on the Friends of the Cal-Sag Trail Facebook page.

“Beautiful trail !!!!!!!!!!”   

“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 here we are, enjoying the trail and all the natural beauty I never knew was here.”  

”First time out on a bike in 20 years.”

“People are walking on the Trail, even where it’s not finished. Such a hunger for open space trails and adventure.”

This project is a shining example of what can be accomplished in a relatively short period of time when federal, state, county and local government agencies work together with citizens and dedicated volunteers to create something that EVERYONE can use and enjoy.

But the project is a long way from being completed. This is how much we have now, but we still have this much left to finish.  We still have to finish the trail from Freedom Park in Alsip East to the Burnham terminus.  And although federal dollars have been awarded for construction of the next 13 miles, those dollars pay 80% of what this trail needs. That remaining 20%—that’s our opportunity, that’s how we, and you, engage with this trail to make a difference.

Chief Communications Officer NatalieMy almost 7 year old granddaughter, Natalie, who is in the crowd today, keeps telling random strangers whenever we are out together (like the grocery checkout lady and Big Mike at the bike shop) that her Grandma is in charge of building a bike trail that everyone can use.  She’s out there spreading the word every chance she gets. She asked me a couple week ago – “Amma, since you’re in charge of building the bike trail, can I please ride on it for free?” Even at this young age she’s realized it’s who you know.  I, of course, told her yes (Grandma’s always say yes).

However, this trail is going to require stewardship on the part of those who use it.  We’re going to find things we want improved. We’re going to see new connections we want to make.

That stewardship begins with USING this trail, as often as possible.  If you haven’t already, pull those bicycles out of the basement or back of the garage and take them over to RBikes to get them tuned up and on the trail. Dig those walking or running shoes out from under the bed and get outside instead of on the treadmill. Then do like Natalie does, and take any opportunity to tell everyone you can about this wonderful trail, the beautiful things you see and the people you meet and talk to.

Make a job for yourself improving this trail. The trail needs more benches. I challenge you to talk about what kinds of benches you’d like to see – should they have bike racks attached so you can stop and watch a barge on the canal or the waterfall at the SEPA station?  The trail needs bathrooms and drinking water—what types of restrooms and water stations would YOU like on this trail? Then brainstorm and share your ideas on how we help our communities and park districts fund these amenities that will make our trail one of Illinois’ premier trails.

Organize and volunteer for clean-up days to manage the brush and invasive species that grow along the banks and hide the scenic vistas and block our photo opportunities. The waterway is the feature that makes this trail special – we need to see the water while we’re using the trail!

There are plenty of opportunities to be involved in the finishing this trail and improving what we’ve built. So get involved.  Share your ideas. is the website of the Friends of the Cal-Sag Trail. You can make a donation there, and contact us. What better legacy to leave behind than helping to build and maintain a 26 mile trail right HERE in our Southland where we live and work, that will be used by millions of people for many generations to come.




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