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of DuPage County, required reconstruc-
tion or major repairs five times in rapid
succession. According to Deborah Fagan,
who served 10 years as trail coordinator
for DuPage County, the saga of the bridge
reflects how the Moorings and Wilsons
approached their work in the early days of
the trail.“It really showed their tenacity,”
she says. “They just kept moving ahead.”
After the railroad removed the original
steel train bridge, it was replaced with a
wooden bridge for pedestrians in 1969.
When vandals irreparably damaged the
wooden structure, a replacement was
swiftly built. But when the remaining
structural support of the old steel bridge
was pulled down, it fell the wrong way and
damaged the new bridge. Then, not long
after the damaged bridge was repaired, the
river flooded and swept the bridge down-
river. County employees hauled the bridge
back upstream and returned it to its origi-
nal position. The following day the bridge
disappeared downriver in another flood.
Yet another wooden bridge was erected and
served the trail for about five years. But
in 1977, when an arsonist started a rash
of fires in the area, the bridge was torched
on two occasions. After the second fire, all
that was left was charred logs.
I was almost ready to give up,” admits
Jean Mooring, 86. “It
was getting exhaust-
ing.” But the Illinois
Prairie Path nonprofit
advocacy group quick-
ly set its sights on rais-
ing money for a much
more expensive all-
metal bridge, and the
Moorings and Wilsons
forged ahead.
Despite the bridge,
Mooring says her 48
years of volunteer work on the IPP have
been a source of great pleasure. She seems
to speak for all four lifelong volunteers in
saying, “You will always find more joy than
adversity” in a trail-building project such
as this, “and you have the satisfaction of
improving people’s lives.”
In the 1970s, the Wilsons and
Before becoming a rail-trail, the IPP
hosted the Chicago, Aurora and Elgin
Railroad. The line carried commuters
from burgeoning western suburbs
through a mix of urban and natural
environments and on into Chicago’s
central business Loop. Not long after the
railroad ended service along the line in
residents began using the corridor
as a walking path. Today, as one of the
busiest trails in the Midwest, the IPP
hosts throngs of cyclists, runners and
walkers throughout much of the year.
Trials and Triumphs
It all started in 1963, when a group of
visionaries organized to create the trail.
Two years later, DuPage County, which
is home to a vast majority of the trail,
bought the right-of-way. An ambitious
group of volunteers soon got to work
developing the trail. The Moorings and
Dick Wilson became active in the group
early on.
But the path from track to trail
was not always smooth. During the
early 1970s, for example, a small bridge
became a big headache for the volunteers.
The bridge, which spans the East Branch
of the DuPage River on the eastern edge
century mark this year,
the Chicago-area rail-trail
displays its remarkable
success in many ways.
Swarms of people use
the trail year-round. Towns all along the
mile route hail it as a community
asset. Hundreds of people show up on
cleanup days to keep the trail groomed
and proud. And then there are the four
volunteers—two married couples—who
over the decades have contributed ideas,
elbow grease and countless hours to get
the path off the ground and into the
hearts of local residents. Jean and Paul
Mooring and Nancy and Dick Wilson
have led a small but determined group
of tireless volunteers who have planned,
built and bolstered the IPP, even when
there was no roadmap for doing so.
From bridge decking
to trail surfacing to
community outreach,
the Moorings and
Wilsons have poured
decades of volunteer
work into the Illinois
Prairie Path.
Lattice work
on Volunteer