If you get around the Bloomington-Normal (Illinois) area much, you may notice a strip of asphalt running along, or across, some of the streets in both cities. Too wide to be a sidewalk, and too narrow to be a road, this is the Constitution Trail. It’s designed for use – by walkers, joggers, bikers, hikers, and anyone wants to get outside and do something a little different.
The trail was proposed in 1986 when the cities of Bloomington and Normal decided to create a multi-use trail. As luck would have it, the Illinois Central Gulf Railroad had just decided to sell off some of its disused right-of-way. Both cities’ councils authorized their Parks and Recreation departments to acquire the land, and after construction work was completed, the Constitution Trail was born. It was dedicated in 1987, taking its name from the 200th anniversary of the United States Constitution that year, and was formally opened for use in 1989. The Trail is, in most places, a ten-foot wide asphalt strip, and is open from dusk to dawn. Motorized vehicles are not permitted, and during the winter snow is not removed, so skiing (of a sort) is possible.
At the time of its creation, the Trail consisted of some ten miles of path, running from the north edge of Normal down to just south of downtown Bloomington. An extension of some 3.5 miles was added in 1997, and more recently the Trail was extended eastward along Washington Street, bringing the total mileage to nearly twenty. More extensions are planned, and in the future the Trail will connect most of the parks, golf courses, and other recreational facilities in the two cities. There has even been a proposal to link it eastward to other trails, eventually extending the Trail to Indiana.
Walking the Constitution Trail is a great way to spend a morning or afternoon, especially when the weather permits. It winds in and out of a lot of areas you don’t usually see by car. One minute you’re walking along city blocks, and a few minutes later you’re walking by a farm or through a wooded area. In some places, the Trail becomes a mini-boulevard, lined by trees and (in the spring) Illinois wildflowers. Some residents who have yards that abut the Trail take pride in creating small gardens to be enjoyed by trail users.
The Constitution Trail has become, in effect, an extended park, and is certainly one of the best things to be found in Bloomington-Normal. If you’re in the area and have some time to spend, a walk along the Trail is great for body and soul.
Town of Normal (Illinois), Constitution Trail
. <http://www.normal.org/Departments/ParksAndRecreation/ConstitutionTrail.htm> (June, 2003)
, Constitution Trail
. <http://www.pantagraph.com/cityguide/trail.html> (April 2003)