In 2000, the Kaskaskia-Cahokia Trail was listed on the 10 Most Endangered Landmarks by Landmarks Illinois, a nonprofit group that advocates for the protection of historic properties.
But 13 years later the trail is one of nine winners of Richard H. Driehaus Preservation Awards given out by the association to recognize excellence in preservation.
The Kaskaskia-Cahokia Trail won in the education category. The Wildey Theatre in Edwardsville, featured previously in the News-Democrat, won the President's Award for Rehabilitation.
The trail was the earliest overland link between Kaskaskia and Cahokia and continued into Southern Illinois. It was little more than a path, probably forged originally by buffalo but used also by Indians.
The Kaskaskia-Cahokia Trail connected many locations in St. Clair, Monroe and Randolph counties.
Local historian Dennis Patton of Columbia has done volumes of research on the trail and landmarks and buildings along it and together with the Monroe County Genealogy Society, the Columbia Historical Society and the Monroe County Tourism Board, worked to revive the old trail and promote tourism.
Today, Illinois 3 roughly parallels the old trail, which hasn't gotten the attention it deserves, said Paul Ellis, director of community and economic development for the city of Columbia.
"The award is important to us because it recognizes our ongoing effort and provides some needed publicity," he said. "It's not easy to win those awards. We're envisioning (the trail) becoming something like the Natchez Trace or even Route 66. It's every bit as historic. It's the oldest road in Illinois. It was seminal to the history of the area."
Patton said he found the trail first mentioned in 1718 in conjunction with the building of Fort de Chartres during the French colonial period. It showed up on the first maps in the 1730s."
Patton has developed a presentation of some of his research and has been talking to groups and people about the trail. His work is part of a process to get state markers along the trail.
"The trail was marked on the first road maps in 1917," he said. "But when the roads were numbered around 1926, the name disappeared."
You can find more information and pictures on the Kaskaskia-Cahokia Trail Facebook page.
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