Local, State and Federal partners celebrated the USDA Forest Service – Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie as a station in the I&M Canal Bike Share system recently launched by the Canal Corridor Association on Saturday, October 5.

Wilmington Mayor Roy Strong and Elwood Village President Doug Jenco participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Midewin at the Iron Bridge Trailhead, which is where a rack with five bikes was installed in September.

Ribbon cutters were Ron Schmidt with the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery Memorial Squad and the Elwood Board of Trustees; and Forest Preserve District of Will County Community Partnerships & Outreach Coordinator Ben Hecke.

Superintendent of Recreation Adam Steffes represented the Wilmington Island Park District. Steve Evans represented the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce & Industry. Jerry Heinrich represented the Midewin Interpretive Association.

“The Canal Corridor Association is grateful for the investment the State of Illinois Office of Tourism, canal communities, and individuals in the Illinois & Michigan Canal National Heritage Area’s new bike share system,” said Canal Corridor Association President and Chief Executive Officer Ana Koval. “This regional system is a terrific step in encouraging wellness and recreation all along the national heritage area’s trails.”

Midewin Prairie Supervisor Wade Spang talked about how the bike-share program is already helping strengthen ties to the community and further the goals of the legislation that established Midewin as a restoration site nearly a quarter-century ago.

“The Illinois Land Conservation Act identified four purposes for the establishment of Midewin, and one of those purposes is recreation,” Spang said. “This is an exciting new bike-share program that strengthens Midewin ties with our neighbors and partners, including the Canal Corridor Association. There are approximately 30 miles of non-motorized public trails here. Now, prairie enthusiasts can experience the prairie on wheels without having to tote a bike.”

The bikes are maintained by Zagster, and the company provides on-site checks of the bikes each week.