First major grant received for rail trail
SPRINGFIELD — Champaign County officials have received the first major grant for construction of their segment of the 24.5-mile Kickapoo Trail linking Urbana and Kickapoo State Park.
Gov. Pat Quinn announced Thursday that the Champaign County Forest Preserve District would receive $200,000 to construct 6.42 miles of trail on an abandoned railroad corridor. The trail segment will link Urbana with St. Joseph generally parallel to U.S. 150.
The $200,000 grant is only a fraction of the $10 million to $12 million needed to build the long-discussed recreational path, said Dan Olson, executive director of the forest preserve district.
"We can't rely solely on granting. This will only get done in a timely manner with private donations, including individual donations on all levels," he said.
Olson said the forest preserve district's foundation, along with the Champaign County Design & Conservation Foundation and the Vermilion County Conservation District Foundation, will begin a major fundraising push in about three weeks. Their goal is $2 million, he said.
Thursday's grant award comes from the Bicycle Path Grant Program administered by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Funds are for the acquisition of land or development of facilities for bicycle paths. The program was approved by the Legislature in 1989, with money from a percentage of motor vehicle title fees.
"This is an initial grant," Olson said. "We need a lot more money than that to begin that 6.42 miles from Urbana to St. Joe. Now we're going to go into some pretty aggressive fundraising."
Construction of the Urbana-to-St. Joseph segment, including rehabilitation of an old railroad trestle bridge over the Salt Fork of the Vermilion River just west of St. Joseph, probably will not begin this year, Olson said.
"It probably won't start until we get quite a bit more support from donors," he said. "This is a first step toward construction that probably won't begin for another year in Champaign County."
But work is still expected to start this year on the Vermilion County section of the recreational trail, including restoration of a large trestle bridge near Kickapoo State Park.
This year's main focus for the trail committee members, Olson said, is development of the master plan for the facility.
"We're finishing up phase II for the whole rail line. For the master plan, we'll send out a (request for proposals) from vendors, and that's when we'll really start looking at placement of trailheads and parking and all that kind of stuff," he said. "We need to get through the master planning first before we start any construction."
The governor's office also announced that the village of Mahomet would receive $53,200 to establish a trailhead and a 1,200-foot extension of the existing Lake of the Woods Multi-Purpose Pathway connecting Lake on the Woods Park in Mahomet with Barber Park.
"These investments will provide more opportunities for people to get out, get healthy and enjoy what Champaign County has to offer," Quinn said. "Bicycling is an ideal activity for young and old, and these paths will make biking safer and more convenient."
"Illinois' growing system of multi-use trails provides Illinois children and families with the perfect opportunity to get outside and connect with nature," DNR Director Marc Miller said. "As these new trails are completed, they will provide an economic boost because communities that offer diverse recreational opportunities become more attractive to new families and businesses."