The sign near the entrance of SIUC's Touch of Nature is pictured.

CARBONDALE — Work is continuing on a construction project that is bringing a premier multi-use trail system to Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Touch of Nature Environmental Center.

Anyone can help, no experience needed

An additional trail-building day has been added to the spring schedule and everyone is invited to come lend a hand on May 25. The session will run 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

No prior experience is needed and all equipment, including gloves and eye and head protective gear, is provided.

Volunteers are asked to wear long pants and closed-toe shoes and to bring a water bottle.

Building miles of trails

Work is already underway to construct what will eventually be a 30-mile trail system through the scenic Shawnee National Forest. The trails are designed to be sustainable, durable and have a low environmental impact. Planning has been in the works for more than four years and now, thanks to volunteers, public donations, SIU Green Fund grants and a recent $200,000 Recreational Trails Program grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

The goal is to have the first phase of the project, encompassing 8 to 10 miles of trails, complete and ready for public use sometime this fall. Touch of Nature officials estimate when the trails are finished and ready for use by bikers, hikers and other recreationists, they will draw upwards of 55,000 visitors annually to the facility, located about eight miles south of Carbondale on Giant City Road.

Register online

Volunteers are asked to sign up in advance so organizers can properly plan equipment and logistics. You can sign up online at campscui.active.com/orgs/TouchofNatureEnvironmentalCenter.

Groups or organizations that would like to volunteer their time and labor to the project at another time are also welcome. Contact Isaiah Tanner at isaiah.tanner@siu.edu to schedule a work session.

Donations are also welcomed for the project. Contact JD Tanner, director of Touch of Nature, at jdtanner@siu.edu for information or donate online through the Southern Illinois University Foundation.

To learn more

For more details about the new trail system or the numerous other facilities, events, activities and services offered by Touch of Nature Environmental Center, visit ton.siu.edu, call 618-453-1121 or email tonec@siu.edu.

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