It can be difficult to find local sources of outdoor recreation that can be enjoyed by individuals, families and groups of friends. Families have limited time to drive to another community to take advantage of their parks and recreational opportunities. The addition of something as simple as a paved, ADA-compliant walking trail can unlock a valuable opportunity for affordable and accessible exercise and recreation. Beyond that, walking trails increase community pride by creating a place that attracts visitors from the surrounding area. Friends of the Trails realizes the potential impact the Eagle Trails will have on Newton and is seeking public support for the project that will enhance the quality of life for those living in Jasper County.

Eagle Trails is a six-phase project creating a multi-use trail system linking Sam Parr State Park to downtown Newton. So far, three of the phases have been completed: the construction of the Aquatic Center, the rehabilitation of the Historic Embarras River Bridge, construction of the first leg of Eagle Trails, and the downtown sidewalk beautification project.

The next three phases include the construction of the riverwalk feature at Peterson Park and the completion of the Eagle Trails. Until 2017, all funding for Eagle Trails had come from grants and the City of Newton, but Friends of the Trails realized it would need local support to continue the project. Friends of the Trails has partnered with Southeastern Illinois Community Foundation to accept tax-deductible gifts on behalf of the City of Newton to support Eagle Trails.

Friends of the Trails invites the public to become a Supporter of the Trails by committing to a pledge that can be paid immediately or over the course of a few years. Friends of the Eagle Trails has several pledge levels and that will be permanently featured on statues at one of two separate locations along the trail: the Eagle Trail Riverwalk at Peterson Park and the Eagle Trail Courtyard at the Historic Embarras River Bridge. These statues will feature the engraved names of all donors who have committed to specific pledge levels and a gift is a great way to honor loved one.

Several pledges have already been submitted and the Friends of Trails are asking those still interested to submit a pledge by September 30, 2018. The amount of pledges received by this date will aid in the final designs of the memorial and trail, though pledges may still be submitted after this date.

A pledge form with memorial designs can be obtained online at or picked up at the River Walk display on the north side of the courthouse lawn, Chamber of Commerce at 124 S. Van Buren or Newton City Hall at 108 N. Van Buren.

The Friends of Eagle Trails Fund is a component fund of Southeastern Illinois Community Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that manages permanent and non-permanent charitable funds for the benefit of communities in southeastern Illinois. For more information, contact Joedy Hightower, President/CEO of Southeastern Illinois Community Foundation, at 217.342.4988.