McLean County residents looking for outdoor recreational spaces and activities have a new online resource which compiles accessible greenways in the county.
Vasu Gadhiraju, executive director of MCRPC, said the commission classifies a greenway as a corridor of land or water that connects the people to nature.
Greenways Chair Deanna Frautschi said a simple Google search doesn’t provide people information like what activities are available at each natural area. For example, one site may allow canoeing, but Google will not tell you details of where to start and where to dock. Greenways plans to answer those questions.
“We have a site map, and that should direct you. In fact I’ve just gone and found a couple of new sites myself using it. That should direct you to where some of the sites are, maybe some that are less known than our Bloomington parks or our Normal recreation areas,” she said.
Frautschi said she hopes the site will grow as residents provide feedback about what else they would like to see the site offer.
Mercy Davison, the Town of Normal planner, said a primary goal of the committee was to show residents they do not necessarily have to spend money or get in their car and drive out of town to experience nature.
MCRPC launched the website as a way to encourage residents to get outside.
Davison points out the Hidden Creek and Fransen Nature Areas as great Bloomington-Normal hiking options. She said those open to a drive can check out the Mackinaw River for fishing, kayaking, canoeing and more.
Frautschi said there are plenty of recreational activities available in the county, regardless of the season.
“We have 22 sites that are listed on the Greenways website, and among those, places like Comlara, Mackinaw River, other places like that have a lot of hiking, they have canoeing. And in the winter, snowshoeing at some of the sites can be done,” Frautschi said.
All 22 current sites can be found under the Greenways storymap.
Gadhiraju said the website will be updated with seasonal events as the committee becomes aware.
The Greenways Advisory Committee completed its first plan in the late 1990s and existed ever since. One of those plans included the Route 66 bike trail expansion. Since then, the committee has worked to protect and promote greenways, while making natural areas more visible to those in McLean County.
Before the Greenways website launch, Gadhiraju said this information could be found by searching on various county, town and city websites. Now, Greenways will compile that information for the first time into one easily accessible place.
“It’s just really amazing to me that we have these places,” Frautschi said. “Some people from out of town know where they are, and maybe some of our residents in town do not. So we want to definitely play up these, let people know, and we just think it’s a wonderful way to enhance the quality of life for our residents, too.”
The committee is also hosting a photo competition alongside the launch of Greenways. Participants are asked to take photos at various natural areas in the county and submit them to the committee for the chance of winning a cash award.
There is contact information available on the Greenways website for those who have questions about specific nature areas in the county or those wanting to know more about how to participate in various activities.
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