• Each year, Times reporters revisit a story with special meaning to them with "A Look Back." News editor Derek Barichello looks at the long-term goal of the Greenway Project coming to fruition this summer in Streator, as well as looking ahead to what's next for the recreational and tourism attraction.
Streator city officials put a check mark in the box next to a longstanding goal in 2018.
The 1.47-mile Greenway Trail and its trailhead park opened this summer to the public. The trail begins at the park at Broadway and Madison streets and goes north to an entry point at West First Street, hugging the Vermilion River and Prairie Creek along the way.
A $400,000 state grant was awarded in 2015 to complete the project.
The Vermilion River Greenway Master Plan was created in 2002 and rebooted in 2013. Councilman Ed Brozak, who served on the committee to draft it, said city officials realized the city wasn't making use of one of its best assets.
"The trail brings benefits in tourism and quality of life," said Brozak, who also is chairman of Streator Tourism. "If people are looking to move to Streator, this is an amenity that will help bring people to town."
The Greenway Trail is the first phase of a master plan that includes a trail system that may eventually connect to the Illinois & Michigan Canal towpath in Ottawa, which would make it part of the Grand Illinois Trail.
Brozak acknowledged making that connection would be a huge tourism benefit for Streator, because it would also connect with Starved Rock State Park.
Given the number of variables and challenges to make that happen, Brozak said he couldn't put a timeline on the eventual goal. Land acquisition and funding are two challenges, he said.
The next step appears to be extending the current trail north to Oakley Avenue.
The Park Board agreed to pursue a grant to extend the trail roughly a mile north from its northern boundary at the end of West First Street.
The 2013 master plan also includes a number of potential expansions to Katchewan Lakes south of the city along the river, to Moon Creek south of the city, to the area behind the old brick yard, to Spring Lake Nature Park, to Marilla Park and eventually following the old railroad line north to Ottawa connecting Streator's trail system to the Illinois & Michigan Canal towpath.
"That depends on the railroad selling the property," Brozak said. "They still own it. They have cars sitting on it now. That would be the main line for a trail connecting Streator to Ottawa."
The plan notes funding will have to come from a variety of several federal and state grant programs.
The streetscape committee, which organized the Wallodgs visit this summer, also would like to connect the Hopalong Cassidy mural and planned park there into the trail system.
There is some immediate unfinished business with the trailhead park. It still needs a name.
The Park Board solicited the public's help. Park Board members are seeking a name that has a historic significance or relevant tie to either the park's neighborhood or to the city in general.
One idea was to call the park Twister Hill Trailhead Park. Twister Hill is the informal name associated with the neighborhood prior to the demolition of most of the homes south of the high school. "Twister" is a form of early glass blowing used in Streator, and this area was settled by many of the German glass blowers.
Another idea was to call the park Bulldog Park, because of its proximity to Streator High School and the idea that the park could play host to sculptures created by high school students.