Grant will be used to build park near White Heath

Grant will be used to build park near White Heath

WHITE HEATH – Recreation enthusiasts in Piatt County will have a new place to fish, canoe or hike by this time next year.

The Piatt County Forest Preserve District is using a $115,000 grant to establish a new park near White Heath.

The recreation area, to be called Shady Rest Park, should be open to the public by this time next year, according to Forest Preserve Park Manager Michael Dixon.

The forest preserve district received the $115,000 grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation on Monday.

The Illinois Clean Energy Foundation is a private foundation based in Chicago that was established about 10 years ago by a gift from the Commonwealth Edison Company.

"We make grants to improve energy efficiency and to protect natural areas for communities in Illinois," said Foundation Executive Director James Mann. "Since our inception, we have given out $86 million in grants."

Dixon said the district will use its money to buy 28 acres on the east side of the Sangamon River Bridge at the Shady Rest Highway north of Monticello and west of White Heath, and district staff will work for the rest of the summer converting the property into a park.

"We'll be working to clean up the property," Dixon said.

When Shady Rest Park opens in June 2006, it will offer fishing, canoeing, kayaking and hiking trails.

Dixon said the park also will help to preserve natural wildlife habitat in the area.

He said the new park is part of an overall plan to establish a series of parks up and down the Sangamon River.

Other current sites include the River Bend Forest Preserve south of Mahomet, the County Line Park at the Piatt-Champaign County line upstream from Shady Rest Park and Lodge Park a few miles south of Shady Rest Park.

"The whole idea is to have a series of locations where people can put in and take out their canoes and kayaks," Dixon said.

The park would also be a part of a bike trail being developed by the city of Monticello and bicycle and nature enthusiasts from Allerton Park to Monticello to Shady Rest Park. Long-range goals may include extending the bike trail system as far east as Kickapoo State Park in Vermilion County.

More information on Shady Rest Park is available from Dixon at 762-4531.

Monday's grant is the 64th provided so far this year to Illinois forest and park districts to improve energy efficiency, develop renewable energy resources and reserve and enhance natural areas and wildlife habitat. The grants collectively protect about 6,500 acres.

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