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North Branch Trail’s Southern Extension Officially Opens
Forest Preserves hosted inaugural ride and kicked-off a two month social media trail challenge

Saturday, August 12, 2017
Special to
by Cook County Forest Preserve District

Cook County bike riders, hikers and explorers now can feel free to enjoy a full 22 miles of nature and wildlife with the newly-completed southern extension of the Forest Preserves of Cook County’s North Branch Trail extension. The new trail segment adds three miles to the existing trail further south, from Devon Avenue and Caldwell Avenue to Forest and Kostner Avenues in Chicago.

The southern extension of the North Branch Trail improves and enhances the trail for better connectivity and exposes more Chicagoans to the beauty and abundant nature within Cook County.

On Saturday, August 12, officials and community members celebrated the completion of the $7.7 million extension and the full trail, which meanders north as far as the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe. Forest Preserves of Cook County General Superintendent Arnold Randall, federal and local officials as well as several civic organizations, volunteers and community members gathered at a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Irene C. Hernandez Family Picnic Grove.

“We are proud to mark the completion of the southern extension of the North Branch Trail,” said Randall. “Trails are a way for people to spend time being active outdoors and we are happy to extend the North Branch Trail to additional Chicago residents who can take the trail into several signature Forest Preserve properties. We encourage city and suburban residents who’ve never visited the trail to hop on a bike or go for a walk to experience the lagoons, flora, wildlife and other amenities found in the nearly 70,000 acres of wild and wonderful preserves.”

During the ceremony, officials also kicked-off a unique social-media driven challenge. Postcards from the North Branch Trail is a two-month photo-sharing event encouraging new and existing visitors to share their adventures by stepping in to six oversized postcards placed throughout various Forest Preserves locations and various communities:

  • Irene C. Hernandez Family Picnic Grove, Foster Ave. & Kilbourn, Chicago
  • LaBagh Woods, Foster Ave. east of the Edens, Chicago
  • Bunker Hill, Caldwell Ave. & Tonty, Chicago
  • Harms Woods-Central, Harms Rd. north of Golf, in Skokie near Glenview
  • Forest Way Grove at Skokie Lagoons, Forestway Dr. north of Tower, near Winnetka
  • Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake-Cook Rd., Glencoe

Participants can post their photos on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter using the hashtag #NBTpostcard.

Once posted, participants will be automatically entered into a drawing to win entry into a number of places in the preserves such as Whealan Pool, Forest Preserves campgrounds and other locations. Additional prizes include discounts on rentals for kayaks, canoes, bicycle rentals and various swag. A full list of prizes and contest rules can be found at

The North Branch Trail is one of the most popular among the Forest Preserves’ 300 miles of trails in Cook County. Features of the extended trail include better connectivity to communities through two bridges over the Chicago River North Branch and the Milwaukee District North line Metra tracks, and a new on-demand signalized crossing at the Matthew Bieszczat Volunteer Resource Center at 6100 N. Central Avenue.

The southern extension project totaled $7.7 million, with 80 percent federal funds through the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning’s (CMAP) Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program (CMAQ). The remaining 20 percent is funded by the Forest Preserves, along with $192,000 of Open Space Impact Fee Funds (OSIF) designated by Alderman Margaret Laurino (39th).

“I share the excitement of many 39th Ward residents and other neighboring Chicago communities who have eagerly waited for the southern trail extension,” said Laurino. “Whether you’re a serious cyclist or a casual walker and ride like I am, the North Branch Trail extension now brings beautiful outings right into our neighborhood,” Laurino added.

Since the release of its Recreational Master Plan in 2013, the Forest Preserves has been building trails at a rapid pace, with 16 percent of the entire system being built in the last two years. Of the 150.3 miles of paves trails, 24.3 miles have been built since 2014.

For more information on the North Branch Trail, including bike rental opportunities, or to download trail maps and search for events near you, visit

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About the Forest Preserves of Cook County

Don’t you sometimes just want to escape? Explore the natural beauty of Cook County for an hour, a day or even a night. When you’re surrounded by 70,000 acres of wild and wonderful there’s no better place to feel free.

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