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The Sterling Park District has been linking together a trail system whichis increasingly used for walking and biking events with an emphasis on community health.

arrow This project was nominated for a Trails for Health Award as part of the 2008 National Trails Awards, announced at the 19th National Trails Symposium in Little Rock, Arkansas.


Sterling, Illinois trails support goals of CGH Health Foundation

The CGH Health Foundation is dedicated to enriching the quality of life for citizens throughout the Sauk Valley area and specifically within the communities of Sterling-Rock Falls. The Health Foundation applauds the Sterling Park District for being the driving force behind promoting the idea of a safe, effective, and accessible passageway for pedestrian and bicycle traffic across the Rock River. This idea was designed to help bridge the gap between the northern Illinois communities of Sterling and Rock Falls, to provide safe pedestrian access across the river.

Photo of bridge over wide river

The Sinnissippi Dam Walkway/Bike Bridge

In an ambitious partnership, the Park District collaborated with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the City of Sterling, the City of Rock Falls, and the Coloma Township Park District to facilitate construction of the Sinnissippi Dam Walkway/Bike Bridge (“the Walkway”). The Walkway was completed in the late summer of 2007, after many years of delays and roadblocks, through persistent efforts of the Sterling Park District.

Without these efforts construction would not have taken place and funding sources would have been ignored. The Sterling Park District has taken an aggressive role in trail development over the last several years. The Walkway is an important link to the entire local trail system created by the efforts of the Park District and will facilitate expansion of recreational opportunities, resulting in further avenues for physical fitness for members of these two communities.

The Walkway will now allow trail users to safely cross over into Rock Falls and then start a journey on the Hennepin Feeder Canal. The trail on the Feeder Canal travels for about 28 miles before linking up to the main Hennepin Canal where those choosing to continue their route can go east toward the Illinois River or west to the Quad Cities. The Walkway will also now essentially provide a realistic north-south linkage across the middle of the Grand Illinois Trail.

This expansion has already seen fitness opportunities expand. A local running club, the Rock River Road Runners (with many members residing in Sterling), meets weekly in Rock Falls to run along the Hennepin Feeder Canal. These same people can safely cross the Rock River by foot or bike instead in getting into their car and driving to Rock Falls. This provides additional exercise time outdoors and less exhaust into the environment.

A local bicycling club, the Rock River Bicycle Club, conducts the Ronald Reagan Heritage Bicycle Ride, crossing the Rock River using the new Walkway as part of the selected course for 50, 75 and 100 mile rides. This expansion opportunity has also been designed to connect seamlessly to the fitness opportunities on the north side of the Walkway in Sterling. Trail users from both outside the area and local residents seeking additional recreational opportunities will have access to trail links in Sterling.

Photo of bridge over low falls

The Walkway will now allow trail users to safely cross over into
Rock Falls and then start a journey on the Hennepin Feeder Canal

The CGH Health Foundation sponsors Women Out Walking (W.O.W), a 10-week walking challenge designed to encourage walking as a way to decrease a woman’s risk for developing chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis. Women can sign up singly or as part of a 4-5 person team and receive a pedometer, t-shirt, walking guide, and step log sheets. The program also includes four health education events, along with four group walks featuring walking paths in Sterling, Rock Falls and Dixon. This program is offered through the CGH Health Foundation (Health and Fitness Initiative), Curves, the Sterling Park District, the Sterling Rock Falls YMCA, the University of Illinois Extension Service of Whiteside County, and the Whiteside County Health Department.

The Sterling Multi-Use Activity Recreational Trail (S.M.A.R.T.) covers over 1.5 miles through two beautiful parks while crossing one wooden bridge. The S.M.A.R.T. path is only about one quiet mile from the Walkway and the new park that is also being developed on the riverfront where the Walkway meets up to the north bank in Sterling. The S.M.A.R.T. path is already used by walkers, bicyclists, runners and other fitness enthusiasts. It is also home to an annual 5K Run/Walk that commemorates National Trails’ Day.

Completion of the Walkway also provides trail users the opportunity to link to Sterling Park District trails at the west end of the city. A 1.75 mile linear paved path which is a favorite of local runners, walkers and bicyclists links up directly to another 1.5 miles of crushed rock path through the woods.

This path also has an entry/exit point at the Park District’s largest recreational facility, the Westwood Sports and Expo Center. This facility houses 18 indoor basketball/volleyball courts, an indoor track, a full fitness center, 4 indoor and 4 outdoor tennis courts, a gymnastic center, two outdoor soccer fields and 5 softball diamonds. The Sterling Park District sought to find a way to link up the trail system to the recreational facility to continue its commitment to increasing physical activity which is provided by unstructured, non-programmed, fun activities along the trails.

The linear paved path is home to an annual 5K fun run each spring. The gravel path near the Westwood Sports Center is home to an annual women’s 5K each year in late June. We have followed the Park Districts work on trail development for several years. During that time trail development has been the highest ranked agenda item in the last three public surveys conducted by the Park District. The Park District has done a great job in responding to the concerns of its citizens and continues to add opportunities for trail usage. The addition of the Walkway is an impressive accomplishment and an important milestone which opens up opportunities onto the Rock Falls side of the Rock River and onto the Hennepin Feeder Canal. The Sterling Park District is clearly committed to long range planning and trail development, which will have a positive impact to the health of our citizens.

For more information:

Sterling Park District -

CGH Health Foundation -

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