First phase of Kickapoo Rail Trail set to open Aug. 25

First phase of Kickapoo Rail Trail set to open Aug. 25

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ST. JOSEPH — The first phase of what eventually will be a 25-mile recreational trail between Urbana and St. Joseph will open Aug. 25.

A ceremony marking the opening of the $3 million first section of the Kickapoo Rail Trail is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Main Street in St. Joseph, said Dan Olson, executive director of the Champaign County Forest Preserve District.

“What we’ll have is a pretty brief ceremony because most people have told us to get through our thank-yous so we can get out on the trail,” he said Thursday. “Honestly, that’s what we’re hearing.”

Local mayors have been invited to offer remarks, along with the Andrew Kerins, the president of the forest preserve board, and the president of the forest preserve district’s foundation board.

The 6.7-mile Urbana to St. Joseph segment is the first of four main phases of the project. Next scheduled for engineering work are two segments, one a short piece in St. Joseph and a second, longer part that will take the trail to the Champaign-Vermilion counties line.

Olson said that construction on those parts “is probably out two to three years.”

Engineering and construction of the two Vermilion County sections of the trail has been held up by the state budget impasse.

Once completed, the trail will take bikers, hikers and walkers across 24.5 miles of Champaign and Vermilion counties, between east Urbana and the Kickapoo State Park. For most of its route, the trail parallels U.S. 150 along the abandoned railroad right of way that 100 years ago was the Big Four Railroad.

Olson urged walkers and bikers to refrain from using the trail until the opening ceremony.

“It’s really important for people to stay off of it now because we’re putting down some stabilizer (calcium chloride that helps the crushed limestone surface bind together) and really people need to stay off of that for a 24-hour period,” said the forest preserve district director. “We’ve also got a few more signs to put up so ultimate safety isn’t in place yet.

“I know that there are a lot of people out there and they’re using it and we’ve been asking them not to. It’s tempting because it looks good.”

The Kickapoo Rail Trail is owned in part by the Champaign County Forest Preserve District, the Vermilion County Conservation District and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. 

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djames354 wrote on August 10, 2017 at 12:08 pm

Are there any designated parking areas to use to be able to get on the trail?