The Old Plank Road Trail in Will and Cook counties has been included in a 3,700-mile Great American Rail-Trail route announced recently by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy organization.
The local path is one of more than 125 trails designated along the “Great American” route, which stretches from Washington, D.C., to Washington State. The OPRT is a 22-mile trail that travels from Joliet through New Lenox, Frankfort, Matteson, Richton Park, Park Forest and Chicago Heights and is owned and managed by multiple jurisdictions, including the Forest Preserve District of Will County.
The remainder of the Great American route in Illinois uses the I&M Canal State Trail in Will, Grundy and LaSalle counties and the Hennepin Canal Parkway in Bureau and Henry counties.
The OPRT has been a popular path ever since the first 12-mile section opened in July 1997. Plans for creating the path date back to the 1970s when the Forest Preserve worked with 14 municipalities to try to gain ownership of the defunct Penn Central railroad line. Success with the OPRT paved the way for other regional trails and trail conversion projects, and the Forest Preserve will continue to look for similar opportunities in the future.