Sunday Extra: Donations rolling in for 'rails to trails' project

Sunday Extra: Donations rolling in for 'rails to trails' project

By Mary Ellen Wuellner

As the summer of 2015 draws to a close, the Champaign County Forest Preserve District would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our generous friends and supporters for contributing to East Central Illinois' first long-distance "rails to trails" project.

On behalf of our Friends Foundation, the Vermilion County Conservation Foundation and the Champaign County Design and Conservation Foundation, we are thrilled to announce that because of you, construction of the Kickapoo Rail Trail could begin as early as this coming spring.

Whether your support came during one of the many Bike Month events this past May, the donation of a bicycle at Champaign Cycle, participation in the Cycles Plus Duathlon, or in a pledge to one of our foundations, you helped us raise more than $151,000 since May 1. We cannot thank you enough.

The Kickapoo Rail Trail spans 24 miles on a retired rail bed from Urbana to the Vermilion County Fairgrounds and Kickapoo State Park. A pedestrian/bicycle trail will be constructed in phases along the rail line. Federal transportation grants and a contribution from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources will cover more than 80 percent of the nearly $5.1 million construction cost for the first 10 miles of trail.

Gifts and donations from individuals, nonprofit organizations, active recreation groups and local businesses will make up the balance.

The value of this recreational asset to our community is evidenced by your generous contributions to the project. You clearly recognize the tourism implications for the towns located along the trail route, the need for safe routes to schools, parks, businesses and neighborhoods in communities like St. Joseph, Oakwood, Fithian and Ogden, and the economic engine this trail will be for both Champaign and Vermilion counties.

Your support has gotten us 98 percent of the way to our phase one fundraising goal.

If you love the idea of hiking, bicycling or walking the dog along a tree-lined trail free of vehicles, you can make it happen — very soon. Send your tax-deductible donation to Kickapoo Rail Trail, PO Box 1040, Mahomet, IL 61853.

And thank you, for all you have done.

Mary Ellen Wuellner is deputy executive director of the Champaign County Forest Preserve District.

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