First major grant received for rail trail

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."

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Sid Saltfork wrote on February 28, 2014 at 8:02 am

Sure, sure... the State of Illinois is broke.  Cuts in education, and services to citizens happen while more "bread and circuses" are handed out for pork barrrel spending, and votes from the "Me, Me" communities.  The money for it all has to come from somewhere, and some things have to be cut.  Meanwhile; basic services to communities, and the money of others pay for it.

DennisOh wrote on February 28, 2014 at 3:02 pm

I think this trail will be a wonderful recreational asset to residents of Champaign and Vermilion Counties as well as all Central Illinois residenets. However, that said I am absolutely shocked at the cost of this project. If my math is correct, spending 10 million dollars to construct 24.5 miles of trail equates to $408,163.26 per mile...this seems like an absolutely crazy number to me...I'd sure like to review the budget for this project...I'll betcha I could shave a HUGE amount off that cost per mile...and provide an equally quality final product.

Sid Saltfork wrote on March 01, 2014 at 10:03 am

Put political affiliations, and recreational wants aside; and think about the overall financial problems of the state.  Governors, and legislators decide what to put the state's spending into.  The overall take in taxes, and fees are divided into different categories.  Education gets so much.  Medicaid gets so much.  Services to abused children get so much, etc...  The list goes on, and on.  Instead of prioritizing the essential needs, obligations, and debts first with the non-essentials being on the last of the list; the politicians put money into the non-essentials for pork barrel spending, and votes.

Champaign, and Urbana are predominately Democrat.  Money for recreation via grants buys votes.  The list of new recreational buildings, swimming pool fixtures, bike paths, and trails in the C-U area continues to grow.  The reason is that the voting citizens in C-U want nifty recreational options.  They choose to ignore the essential needs.  They complain about taxes; but they gleefully accept the grants for non-essential things.  They are concerned about the lack of state money for education; but they want a trail that only a minority of the population will use.  The game of spending on pork barrel projects versus financial responsibility will eventually require maintaining the temporary tax, or creating a progressive tax; or both.  The only way for Illinois to unburden itself from crippling debt is to stop the non-essential spending.  Families have to do the same thing.  The difference is that families can declare bankruptcy; but states cannot due to their ability to raise revenue via taxes, and fees.

The trail from Urbana to Danville is a non-essential want versus an essential need.  Once it is built, it will need to be maintained at an increasing cost.