The first 10 miles of a proposed 30-mile, multi-use trail system in the Touch of Nature Forest in Makanda, Illinois, has been completed. The mostly natural-surface trail is open to bikers, hikers, and runners and was built thanks to volunteers and funding assistance from a federal Recreational Trails Program grant administered by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

The Touch of Nature Environmental Center, an outdoor learning laboratory for students studying forestry within Southern Illinois University’s College of Agricultural Sciences, has been working on what it calls the TON Mountain Bike Project since 2016 — raising money, applying for grants, and creating a management strategy that includes an International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) Conceptual Plan for the property.

When completed, the project will consist of approximately 30 miles of trails through the rolling hills and sandstone bluffs of the Shawnee National Forest, in addition to an adult terrain park and other manmade features. Construction is also under way on a kid’s terrain park featuring a pump track, Strider area, and skills loop trail.

Funding is still needed to support future phases of the plan. To donate to the TON Mountain Bike Project or other Touch of Nature programs, visit