What was once dubbed the “path of destruction” by Izaak Walton nature preserve officials is now being called the “path of restoration.” Izaak Walton and Homewood Public Works Department officials said the eventual goal is to turn it into a bike path that connects to Old Plank Trail at Thorn Creek Nature Center in Park Forest.
In March 2021, a large path of broken wood and piles of debris could be found at Izaak Walton. It was a byproduct of installing the water pipes for Homewood to get its tap water from Lake Michigan in Hammond, Indiana, instead of Lake Michigan in Chicago. The water project was completed in September 2021.
A Chronicle reader said about the path in March 2021, “it looks like Godzilla walked through.”
“We had to do some tree cutting and things like that, disturb the ground and put the pipe in,” Homewood Director of Public Works John Schaefer said. “We went right down the railroad right away that originally went into [Thornton Quarry]. We took that same path.”
“Most of the things that were taken down were invasive [species] to begin with,” Izaak Walton president John Brinkman said. “We’re planting and replanting with native vegetation.”
Today, a large portion of the path is made up of gravel instead of broken wood and debris. It’s used by hikers, cyclists and dog walkers. Much of the eastern end isn’t a full gravel path yet but still in a restorative state very different from the “path of destruction” that it once was.
The path is smaller with natural wildlife having blossomed on both sides of the gravel. Even the eastern portion of the path that isn’t fully gravel yet is much more comfortable to walk through than it once was. Large pieces of broken trees are no longer visible.
Brinkman said 42 native trees and shrubs were planted along the path. Some have yellow ribbons on them for identification but others do not.
The village applied for a grant to extend the path into the bike trail, and they’ll know if they’ve received the funding this August, Brinkman said. About 90% of Izaak Walton is owned by the Village of Homewood, Schaefer said.
Schaefer described this as a “long-term goal,” adding that extending the path into Old Plank Trail will take “several years.” He said the village will need the proper permits and “permission from some of the landowners and some other municipalities that would be along that trail.”
Even if the proposed bicycle trail doesn’t come to fruition, Izaak Walton and the village of Homewood are continuing to work to upgrade the path’s appearance, improve the ecosystem and restore the vegetation.