A pair of whitetail deer peruse the grassy fields of the Caldwell Woods in Norwood Park on August 2, 2021. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

EDGEBROOK — A new path on the North Branch Trail will bring more opportunities for cyclists and pedestrians to get outside and enjoy nearby forest preserves.

The path will connect the North Branch Trail from the Bunker Hill forest preserve to Touhy and Caldwell avenues at the border of Chicago and Niles. Construction of the path, which will run along a sewer line corridor, is expected to begin next spring, said Carl Vogel, director of communications at the Forest Preserves of Cook County.

Nadig Newspapers was first to report on the extension.

The project, which will cost $499,000, has been in the works since 2018 and is being funded by the village of Niles, the Illinois Department of Transportation and from an Invest in Cook grant from the Cook County Department of Transportation and Highways, said Niles spokesperson Mitch Johnson.

The North Branch Trail Connection will run along a sewer line on forest preserve property to connect the corner of Touhy and Caldwell avenues with the North Branch Trail. Credit: Village of Niles

Due to increased prices for engineering and materials, the project’s price could go up slightly, Johnson said. The project cost split is 80 percent federal and 20 percent local. The Cook County grant is expected to cover most or all of the local funding, Johnson said.

The project should enter the “bid letting” phase this fall, which means contractors, subcontractors, materials suppliers and transportation industry groups can review and bid on the state transportation projects. A construction engineer will also be hired by Niles, Johnson said.

The project should be completed within four months of the groundbreaking in May and end in August 2023, Johnson said.

“Part of the background and significance of this project is that the village is continuing to develop and revitalize the ‘Touhy Triangle’ area bounded by Touhy, Lehigh and Gross Point, so this trail extension serves as an additional access point to that important destination,” Johnson said.

A rendering of the new gateway signage for the southwest corner of Touhy and Caldwell avenues in Niles shows the entrance to the North Branch Trail Connection project, slated to start in spring 2023. Credit: Village of Niles

The connection’s entrance will have signs and a monument that will improve visibility and access for group bike rides and people wanting to swing between the North Branch Trail and local businesses, he said.

The project is part of an intergovernmental agreement between Niles and the Forest Preserves of Cook County, which owns the property and has a say in construction and trail logistics, Vogel said.

The addition will let people access the trail quicker and enjoy the outdoors more, he said.

“This new connection will allow another easy access option for bikers and hikers to access the remarkable natural areas at Bunker Hill and the more than 20 miles of trails in the Forest Preserves’ North Branch Trail system,” Vogel said.

Trees reflect in the water at LaBagh Woods along the North Branch Trail on April 19, 2022. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

There are no other trail updates in the works, but forest preserve leaders have focused on ecological restoration work like clearing dense invasive brush along the trail in Caldwell Woods and Bunker Hill.

“Especially along some stretches next to the river, it gives visitors a really nice view of the native wildlife and plants in the preserves,” Vogel said.

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