The trail goes to the dogs, but not yet all of them

IMG_4192The Rails­ to ­Trails Conservancy set March 28 as the date for the nationwide Opening Day for Trails event. So that’s when people gathered at Peoria’s Junction City Shopping Center to celebrate the Rock Island Greenway.

Of course, Opening Day is a bit of a misnomer; the Greenway is open year­-round. Still, I wondered whether the date was determined by someone who lived well to the south, because in central Illinois there’s about a 40­ percent chance you’ll encounter snow or rain during any one day in March.

Per Ellingson adds style to the repair area while removing a broken water bottle cage.

Per Ellingson adds style to the repair area while removing a broken water bottle cage.

And you have to worry about the white stuff at an event like this because the Greenway, though paved, is the three-­season room of bicycle infrastructure. Snow is only removed by higher temperatures and the sun.

(Here’s hoping the Peoria Park District eventually finds the funding to keep the trail plowed in the winter, like many of the trails around, say, Minneapolis.)

As it turned out, it did not snow or rain, and the ground was dry. The low temperature was 22 degrees at 5:30 a.m., and the high temperature was 43 at 4 p.m. The normal high for March 28 is 56 degrees.

So, chilly but sunny. The wind was less than 10 miles per hour.

IMG_4194 2Is there a perfect date for an outdoor event? Probably not. But it’s more important to hold an event like this than to worry about the date on which you hold it. And here’s why.

Throughout the year, multi­purpose trails are all about movement. People walking, running and riding bicycles. Even people watching cardinals and chickadees and hoping for bluebirds move from spot to spot.

But Opening Day, especially a cold Opening Day, is also about people grouping together, for however short a time, to talk about whatever crosses their minds.IMG_4186

Could be the upcoming riding or running season, or car­pooling in early May to Allerton Park outside of Monticello, Illinois, 92 miles to the southeast.

Or, when you’re standing near the Peoria Animal Welfare Shelter’s (PAWS) table, discussing the circumstances of a dog’s last home, lost when his caretaker died, and whether he has found a new one.

At noon, Custer, a 10-­year­-old English Springer Spaniel and Border Collie mix, was still looking for a new friend, maybe someone to walk with on the Greenway.

After all, it’s open for everyone. And isn’t that a great thing?