Too many people are using the Des Plaines River Trail which runs along the Des Plaines River between Madison Street and North Avenue near River Forest. That is the only conclusion to draw from the signs recently posted all along that trail by the Cook County Forest Preserve.
If I were looking to post signs in the forest, they would say something like: ALL WELCOME or HAVE FUN. But that is not how the Forest Preserve, which is made up largely of patronage workers, operates.
Trundling through the woods the other day, I noticed dozens of new signs at every trailhead which read: “Trail Open To FOOT TRAFFIC ONLY. Horses And Bicycles PROHIBITED.”
Now, I have never seen a horse on the Des Plaines River Trail. I suppose the Native Americans who inhabited these woods in yesteryear had horses. But at least since the invention of the automobile, no hoof has set foot there.
I suppose a horse could theoretically prance on the trail, but first you would have to truck the big fella in from horse country — or Maywood Park Racetrack. And given the many fallen trees across the trail, left to rot by the busy, busy Forest Preserve employees, you would need a horse with special skills.
But the real evil the Forest Preserve is determined to stop in the woods? Not quadrupeds, but bipeds, specifically people, people on bikes.
The question is why? And I think I know the answer. It’s all Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s fault.
See, since Preckwinkle replaced Todd Stroger, she has shaken things up in the county by asking for the impossible: that county workers work. This has ruined the daily rhythm of the patronage worker. “Work” is no longer an endless fog of coffee breaks, extra-long lunches and reading the Sun Times.
So they need to work. The problem is they do not know how to do so. Here is a recent conversation between two patronage employees:
Tommy: Hey Joey, dem Bears, deh sure did beat up dem Lions last week, huh?
Joey: Zip it Tommy. I’m trying to work.
Tommy: Work? But we already done our work last weekend gettin’ out dah vote.
Joey: No, dumb-dumb. We gotta work at work.
Joey: Dats right. Dah boss said we gotta pretend we’s werkin, so I’m makin’ dis here sign.
Tommy: What’s a sign?
Joey: A sign is when they fire 10 guys in the Forest Preserve garage for sittin’ around all day.
Tommy: “Bi-cy-cles pro-hi-bi-ted.” What’s dat mean?
Joey: Are you a dodo? Dat means our buds in dah Forest Preserve Police can start generating revenue by ticketing dem mountain bikers dat keep riding through dah woods. You know, dah ones with dah spandex. We post dah signs. Cops write dah tickets, and dah fancy pants bikers pay dah freight.
Tommy: But I ain’t never seen more den a handful of bikers in dah woods, and I should know cause dats where I take my afternoon siestas.
Joey: Never mind. Dis is what deh call improving dah woods. We gotta keep people out so dah forest stays preserved. See?