The newest link in the DuPage River Trail -- a bridge crossing the DuPage River in Plainfield and a .75-mile path -- was officially christened Wednesday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Riverview Park.
After five years of planning and construction, the $1.8 million project is now open for public use, Planning Superintendent Cameron Bettin said.
"I think it's a benefit to the community because it's right on the river and it provides some access that wasn't available before," Bettin said. "Once you get away from Route 59, you forget it's there."
Part of the public ribbon-cutting event was the naming of the bridge for John M. Wilson Jr., a five-term park board member. He will have completed 30 years on the board when his most recent term ends in 2013.
The project was conceived in 2005, and it's taken more than five years of grant applications, planning and construction to bring it to completion, Bettin said. Most of the funding came from money provided by the Illinois Department of Transportation and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, with the district picking up about 20 percent of the price tag, he said.
The walking/biking trail starts at Riverview Park, located on Naperville-Plainfield road just east of Route 59, and follows the ComEd right-of-way to a turnaround loop at 143rd Street. Eventually, however, it will be part of the 29-mile DuPage River Trail starting in Naperville and ending in Channahon, Bettin said.
The river trail is being done in pieces as the money becomes available, he said. In Plainfield, the plan is to have it cross Route 59 and link with the trail to be built at Riverfront Park/Electric Park near Plainfield Village Hall.
All of the towns and park districts along the trail path, including Naperville, Bolingbrook, Plainfield, Joliet, Shorewood and Channahon, are committed to the project, as are the Will County and DuPage County forest preserve districts. Once the trail reaches Channahon, it will link into the 61-mile Illinois and Michigan Canal State Trail.
Because Riverview Park includes a 10-stall parking lot, it will eventually become a trail head for the larger trail.
For now, however, it will be a stand-alone amenity to Riverview Park. An access point allows people to use the river for canoeing, kayaking and tubing, andthe new path and bridge will provide greater access for fishing, Bettin said.
Plans call for a small picnic shelter and path bench to be installed, he added, and the district will seed the site and plant trees this fall.
"It's going to be really nice when the trees are in," Bettin said. "I think it's a good amenity (for Plainfield)."