CHARLESTON, Ill. (WCIA) — There aren’t many place in central Illinois where you can find rolling hills and large lakes.
That’s why city leaders saw an opportunity to mold a collection of natural resources into a haven for the community.
Follow a road that’s off the beaten path of the city, and you’ll find one of Charleston’s proudest projects…where you can listen to the sound of rushing water, or take a hike or bike ride down a long, winding trail that cuts through the middle of Lake Charleston.
For many people, going there is an escape, because they don’t have to go far to find a little bit of geography.
The lake has always been there, but everything you can find around it hasn’t.
“We have really taken this from not being used very much by too many people, to being used a lot by a lot of people,” said Charleston parks and recreation director Brian Jones. “In about 2013, we had some mountain biking guys that wanted to expand the trail system, came to the city, and we started working with them.”
“Once it was determined that there was a strong demand for that kind of public land, that kind of access…the trail system really expanded from there,” said Brendan Lynch, of Bike and Hike.
Lynch is a long-time Charleston resident and avid bike enthusiast. He played a big part to set the plan in motion.
“It’s really changed the whole dynamic…the DNA of the town.”Brendan Lynch
This trail now wraps completely around the lake, attracting people from all over central Illinois.
There’s also a brand new playground and pavilion.
Lynch and Jones helped build a hub for nature-lovers and cyclists alike.
During the process, they’ve also built strong relationships.
“We’ve had some good times…we’ve certainly had our times of falling down in the frozen woods, but most importantly the projects have been a catalyst for relationships,” said Lynch.
It’s not hard to see how the passion poured into this project, produced a product with such a positive reputation in our town Charleston, and beyond.
The trail system got the governor’s hometown award in 2017.
There have also been several weddings at the pavilion since the renovations took place.