Salt Creek Greenway Association

The Salt Creek Greenway

Purpose and Partners

Places to Visit


Greenway Trails


Special Greenway Projects


by Jim Rogers, Elmhurst Park District
June 21, 2014

The building of the Salt Creek Greenway Trail spanned almost twenty years from the date it was first proposed to when efforts began to bring together numerous public agencies to plan, develop, engineer, construct and open the Salt Creek Greenway Trail to the public. Jim spoke about these collaborative partnerships which involved representatives from twelve watershed municipalities, park districts and forest preserve districts. The purpose of the meetings was to reach consensus on mapping, designing, funding, engineering, routing and building the trail.

Trail development and construction occurred in phases over nearly fifteen years.

The Salt Creek Greenway Trail also involved the Illinois Department of Transportation, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and DuPage mayors and managers.

The Elmhurst Park District was the first agency to independently begin construction of a segment of the Salt Creek Greenway Trail in DuPage County. In October 1964, the Elmhurst Park District purchased open land along Salt Creek to build a hiking path and serve as flood water retention. After the Salt Creek workshop was held in 1989, Steve Plumb, Director of Park Services, Elmhurst Park District, led efforts to coordinate partners in the building of the 30.6 mile Salt Creek Greenway pedestrian-bicycle Trail within the heavily populated communities of Cook and DuPage counties bordering the Salt Creek watershed. More than 300,000 people reside in the Salt Creek corridor and benefit from the trail system as an open space and recreational amenity close to home.

Today, the 30.6 mile Salt Creek Greenway Trail is one of the most scenic and visited trail systems in Northeastern Illinois.

The Salt Creek Greenway Trail provides linkages to other regional trail systems throughout Northeastern Illinois with connections to trail systems elsewhere in Illinois and in southern Wisconsin.


How it All Began

Summary by the Salt Creek Greenway Association

The idea of a Salt Creek Greenway Trail was just a vision during the 1980's when the Northeastern Illinois Regional Greenways Plan was in the development stages. Adding a Salt Creek Greenway Trail to the Northeastern Illinois trail system was the missing link. It was generally believed that it would be too difficult and expensive, if not impossible, to build a Salt Creek Greenway Trail. But Greenway leaders believed the benefit a Salt Creek Greenway Trail was worth exploring in spite of obstacles.

Was building the Trail an insurmountable task or an achievable project?

To find out, Open Lands Project and the Salt Creek Greenway Association decided to collaborate on sponsoring a Salt Creek Greenway Workshop. The Workshop was funded by a grant from the National Trust for History Preservation. Meeting space for the Workshop was donated by the Oak Brook Hills Hotel.

The purpose of the workshop was to bring watershed partners to the table, explore the feasibility of building a Salt Creek Greenway Trail and determine whether or not there was regional interest, resources, the will or land available to build the Trail.

The goal of the Workshop was to develop a community action plan to design and build a Salt Creek Greenway Trail as part of the Northeastern Illinois Regional Greenways trail system.

Invitations to the Workshop were sent to representatives of the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, Salt Creek watershed municipalities, Park Districts and local open space and historic organizations. Invitations to the Workshop included mayors and managers as well as representatives from state and federal agencies.



Date: May 20, 1989 - 9:30 AM to 3:30 PM
Meeting Space donated by Oak Brook Hills Hotel

Registration and Coffee
9:00 - 9:30
Welcome and Overview -
9:30 - 10:00
Gerald Adelmann, Open Lands Project
Valerie Spale, Salt Creek Greenway Association
Keynote Address -
10:00 - 10:30
Michael Roberts, Timelines, Inc., Massachusetts
Concurrent Sessions
10:30 - Noon
Historic Preservation and Archaeology
Michael Roberts, Timelines, Inc.

Open Space Preservation
Dr. William Zales, Joliet Junior College

Recreation Trails
David Eubanks, Open Lands Project
Lunch -
On Your Own
Greenway Strategy Session
1:15 - 3:30
Reports from Concurrent Sessions
Develop Community Action Plan



Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts is president of Timelines, Inc. a Massachusetts firm that specializes in historic preservation planning and cultural resource management for clients worldwide. Mr. Roberts has undertaken several hundred large and small scale historic, prehistoric, and underwater archaeological projects. Some of his achievements include excavation of portions of the Boyiston Street Fish Weir (2600 B.C.) in Boston; development of the Cultural-Resources Management Plan for the Massachusetts Park and Forest System; and work on the ongoing interpretive plan for the Blackstone River Valley Heritage Corridor in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Mr. Roberts has also worked on community workshops and preliminary interpretive recommendations for the Illinois &Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor, an "urban cultural park" stretching along 120 miles of Illinois' inland waterways.

Gerald Adelmann
Gerald Adelmann is executive director of Open Lands Project and Upper Illinois Valley Association, two affiliated not-for-profit organizations serving northeastern Illinois. Since l982, Mr. Adelmann has directed the Upper Illinois Valley Association, which led efforts to save the Illinois & Michigan Canal designated a National Heritage Corridor, the first federal land designation of its kind n the nation. In 1988, Mr. Adelmann became director of Open Lands Project, a 26 year old organization that preserves and improves public open space in the Chicago metro region for conservation, recreation and aesthetic appreciation.

Valerie Spale
Valerie Spale is President of the Salt Creek Greenway Association, newly formed to help identify, preserve and promote the natural, historic and leisure resources of the Salt Creek region as a greenway. Ms. Spale is executive director of Save the Prairie Society, which led efforts to save Wolf Road Prairie - a rare 80 acre black soil prairie, oak savanna and marshland in Westchester, Illinois. Ms. Spale serves on the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission.

Dr. William Zales
Dr. William Zales is a long-standing Professor of Botany and Plant Taxonomy at Joliet Junior College. In conjunction with his teaching post, Mr. Zales is working to create two unique additions to the outdoor campus at Joliet Junior College: a 10 acre prairie and an 11 acre arboretum that will include 200 species of woody plants. Mr. Zales is also working hard as a member of the Old Plank Road Trail Association to turn the abandoned Penn Central Rail line into a recreation and nature trail in the south suburbs.

David Eubanks
David Eubanks is manager of policy and planning for Open Lands Project. Beyond coordinating the organization's public policies, Mr. Eubanks also manages trail projects. He has helped coordinate development of the Old Plank Road Trail and is currently participating in establishing the future Centennial Trail, a 26 mile segment of the Illinois & Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor. Mr. Eubanks conducted a major study for Open Lands Project on the social and economic impacts of linear bike trails on adjacent communities. He also serves on the Board of the Rails to Trails Conservancy, Illinois Chapter.


Participants shared maps and information about the Salt Creek area within their jurisdictions, discussed trail development options and explored opportunities for creating a connected 30.6 mile trail system during the Greenway Strategy Sessions.

Steve Plumb, the Elmhurst Park District, talked about the Salt Creek Trail System already built by the District on land it had acquired for the trail. He learned that connections and linkages to the Elmhurst trail system to neighboring trail systems either already existed or could be developed.

Further study of the maps revealed that a critical trail link existed between the Forest Preserve District of Cook County seven mile trail under the I-294 Tollway to the Dean property in Oak Brook, DuPage County. This discovery proved to be the "aha" moment of the Workshop. Without this underground passage, it would have been very difficult, too expensive and most likely impossible, at the time, to connect the two counties or build the trail. Designing a trail extension from the Dean property to the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County trail in Fullersburg Woods was the next step to connect the Salt Creek Greenway west and north from Cook County to Oak Brook and Elmhurst and to intersect with the Illinois Prairie Path.

And the prospects for the Trail proceeding north of the Illinois Prairie Path beyond Elmhurst through several DuPage County municipalities looked promising as well. The Salt Creek Greenway Trail could be extended to its northern destination - Busse Woods.

The Trail could also be extended eastward toward the Village of Brookfield and the Village of Lyons in Cook County and its eastern destination at the confluence of Salt Creek and the DesPlaines River.

Workshop participants celebrated the good news. The prospects for a Salt Creek Greenway Trail were better than anyone could have predicted at the beginning of the day. A Salt Creek Greenway Trail was possible if everybody worked together. Now the hard work of making the Trail a reality would begin.

Steve Plumb, Elmhurst Park District, was inspired to take the lead and meetings were held with Greenway partners to develop plans, lay out trail routes, and identify trail connections to build the 30.6 mile Salt Creek Greenway Trail. Federal grants were applied for to engineer and build the trail. Partners contributed funds for their sections of the trail system.

After many years of fundraising, planning, designing, engineering trail routes, constructing and reconstructing bridges, trail preparation, trail construction, trail landscaping and installation of signage involving input from local communities, decision makers, partners and neighbors and including intergovernmental cooperation and environmental stewardship, the Salt Creek Greenway Trail was finally approved, funded, constructed and opened to the public.

A logo was designed to identify the Salt Creek Greenway and signs were posted along Trail routes.

Each community was responsible for maintenance of the section of the trail in their jurisdiction.

The Trail opened to the public on September 25, 2010. Each community held its own grand opening ceremony, complete with ribbon cutting, speeches and dignitaries.

The Salt Creek Greenway Trail exists today as a testament to hard work, dedication, and overcoming hardships and challenges. The Trail is a neighborhood asset linking Salt Creek communities, agencies and people within one of the most notable open space and recreational success stories in Northeastern Illinois.


The 30.6 mile-long regional trail extending from the Busse Woods Forest Preserve in NW Cook County, through NE DuPage County, to the Brookfield Zoo is one of the most visited tourist attraction in northeastern Illinois.

Salt Creek Greenway Trail Map (pdf)

Greenway historic sites, natural areas, economic centers, golf courses, shopping centers, fine dining destinations, and transportation hubs within the Salt Creek Greenway include:

Ned Brown Forest Preserve
Busse Woods
Salt Creek Country Club
Wooddale Cabin Nature Center
Canoe Launches
Maple Meadows and Oak Meadows Golf Courses
Cricket Creek Wetland Bank
Connection to Illinois Prairie Path and The Great Western Trail
Hilton/Drury Lane
Butler National Golf Course
Mayslake Peabody Estate
McDonald's Campus
Archaeological Sites dating back thousands of years
Old Fullersburg Historic District
Fullersburg Woods Environmental Center
Graue Mill and Dam
Old York Tavern
c. 1840 Ben Fuller Farmhouse
Meadow Lark Golf Course
Chicago Highlands Golf Course
Wolf Road Prairie Nature Preserve
Salt Creek Nursery
Early Settler Cemeteries
Grossdale Trail Station Museum
Zoo Metra Stop
Brookfield Zoo
British Home
Historic Riverside
Hofmann Tower
c. 1673 Historic Chicago Portage Site
The Confluence of Salt Creek and the DesPlaines River

Linkages to…
Illinois Prairie Path
Centennial Trail
Busse Woods Trail
Oak Brook Trails
15 forest preserves
8 local parks
Brookfield Zoo
5 historic sites
Woodfield Mall
Oakbrook Center
3 METRA stations
16 PACE routes
Employment/economic centers

Photo by Debbie Dolecki

The land and water trails, scenic beauty, historic sites, natural areas, oak and hickory forests, prairies and wetlands which lie within the Salt Creek Greenway Trail system are popular destinations for tourists, artists, photographers, writers, birders, senior citizens and young families.

The Salt Creek Greenway area improves quality of life, provides an escape from suburban congestion and pollution and connects us to the natural world close to home.

The Salt Creek Greenway alleviates flooding, improves air quality, provides habitat for wildlife, increases property values, and serves as an economic engine for local businesses, shopping districts and entertainment centers.

THE SALT CREEK GREENWAY TRAIL IS: A Case Study in Intergovernmental Cooperation and Environmental Stewardship


Forest Preserve District of Cook County
Forest Preserve District of DuPage County
City of Wood Dale
Village of Itasca
Village of Addison
Addison Park District\
Elmhurst Park District
Village of Villa Park
Village of Oak Brook
Village of Lyons

Planning Began 1994
Construction Completed 2008

Illinois Department of Transportation Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program
Illinois Department of Natural Resources Illinois Bike Path Program
DuPage Mayors and Managers Transportation Control Measures Program


Grant Funds 80%   $9,000.000
Local Agency Funds 20%   $2,200,000
Total $12,000,000

Elmhurst Segment Costs
Grant Funds 80% $2,191,000
Local Agency Funds 20%    $528,825
Total $2,729,847

For more information about the Salt Creek Greenway Trail, call or email Jim Rogers, Elmhurst Park District at 630-993-8930 or

Or visit the Elmhurst Park District web site at

Photos from the Elmhurst Park District

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