Kickapoo Rail Trail work blazing along

Kickapoo Rail Trail work blazing along

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FULLS SIDING — In less than three months, the first segment of the 24.5-mile Kickapoo Rail Trail — from St. Joseph to Urbana — will be open to the public.

"The contractors have been back to work for about two weeks," said Mary Ellen Wuellner, deputy executive director of the Champaign County Forest Preserve District, which owns the Champaign County portion of the recreational trail that eventually will connect Urbana and Danville.

"They have until the 10th of July under their contract. And as I understand it, they are on schedule," Wuellner said.

Maybe even ahead of schedule, said Shane Moline, a construction superintendent for Cross Construction.

"I actually think we're ahead of schedule," he said Wednesday as work crews sprayed a coating of calcium chloride to the trail section most advanced — a mile-and-a-half portion by the Fulls Siding grain elevator.

The chemical coats the 3 inches of crushed limestone that completes the surface of the recreational trail and means that segment is essentially ready for use.

But plenty of work remains to be done at the Urbana and St. Joseph ends of the trail, including grading and seeding the areas alongside the recreational path.

Planning for a grand opening is underway, Wuellner said.

"We are not releasing a ribbon-cutting date yet. We're hopeful for the middle of July but until we get a little further into the construction season this spring, we're not going to set a date yet," she said.

The event will be held in St. Joseph, she said.

Meanwhile, fundraising continues for the rest of the project in Champaign County, which is being paid for with a combination of government grants and private donations.

"We are doing really well. We have met our goal for phase one in terms of what we were hoping to raise. Our sights now are set on phase two, which will take us from Main Street in St. Joe to the Vermilion County line," Wuellner said. "We have a $225,00 grant in place for design engineering through IDOT for that phase. So we need to match that with about $50,000.

"We also have a small grant recreational trail grant in place just to do a small section of design and construction through St. Joe. We're raising another $50,000 in match for that too."

Coming next year

Ahead, Wuellner said, is the need to seek grant funding and private contributions to complete the trail in Champaign County. That big push will be in 2018.

"We know that the bigger goal to match construction for that next 5.4 miles is looming. We don't plan on taking a break here. We're going to continue to fundraise until we hit the county line," she said.

Two fundraising events for the trail have been scheduled: an April 29 community bike sale at Champaign Cycle and a "Bastards on the Patio" party May 18 on the patios of Cowboy Monkey and the Blind Pig in downtown Champaign.

The bike sale will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Champaign Cycle shop (506 S. Country Fair Drive, Champaign).

"It's a way for people to clean out their garages of bikes that maybe they haven't ridden in a number of years or maybe bikes that their kids have outgrown and donate them to a good cause. Because then the proceeds from the buyer go to the Kickapoo Rail Trail," Wuellner said. "Peter Davis has done this a number of times before and we actually have made in the neighborhood of about $5,000 every year we've done it."

The May 18 event will feature sampling of two craft beers: Dirty Bastard by Founders Brewing and Arrogant Bastard by Stone Brewing.

"We were approached by two brewing companies to hold a fundraiser and we think it's going to be a lot of fun," she said.

Vermilion: 'On hold'

While there's progress on the Champaign County side of the trail, organizers in Vermilion County say they feel stymied.

Construction of the Vermilion County segment — from east of Ogden to Kickapoo State Park — has been held up because of the state's budget impasse. A $658,000 construction grant sits untouched because of the ongoing budget gridlock.

"We need the Legislature to put the budget together," said Ken Konsis, executive director of the Vermilion County Conservation District. "The paperwork is done. It's all signed, sealed, everything but delivered."

State Rep. Chad Hays, R-Catlin, said he's just as frustrated.

"I don't anticipate those dollars being released until there's an agreement on the budget," Hays said. "For now it's on hold. I'm still holding out hope that we can come to some kind of an agreement this spring."

Konsis said that private fundraising continues for the Vermilion County portion. A memorial for his wife, Lorna, who passed away in February, has raised $6,500.

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billbtri5 wrote on April 14, 2017 at 9:04 am

...just checking...State is still broke?....huge backlog of unpaid bills?....pension fund

$130 billion underfunded?....



Annotator wrote on April 14, 2017 at 9:04 am

What political party is in power in Vermilion county?  Oh, the opposite of the Chicago liberal machine!  No funding for that project will be released until after the upcoming election, if the county votes the "left way" of the tax and spend party!

7lw7 wrote on April 14, 2017 at 10:04 am

It's my understanding the vast majority of the funding is coming from federal pass-through grants. So, even though state agencies may be issuing the grants, the actual funding is federal, so this has no effect on the state budget crisis.

I would love to see a full list of funding for the project posted somewhere.