DANVILLE — The Southgate Industrial Park doesn't sound like a place someone would go to exercise or enjoy nature.
But city workers who regularly mow parts of a 16-acre city-owned section of the industrial park see plenty of wildlife, including beaver, herons and ducks, according to Steve Lane with the Danville parks department.
A few years ago, Lane applied for a federal grant to plant the 16 acres, which includes a 4.5-acre retention pond area, in native grass, shrubs and trees and build a shelter with picnic tables and a paved walking path around the pond.
"It takes about a day for someone to mow all this, and it would really be nice to convert it into something that doesn't need to be mowed," said Lane, who added that employees from nearby companies, including Fiberteq, Sygma and Alcoa, could use it on their breaks or before or after work for exercise or relaxation.
Recently, Lane was finally notified that the city got the funding, an $86,200 recreational trails grant from the federal government that's routed through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. It requires about a $21,550 local match, Lane said, but only $1,005 of that will be cash from the city, and the rest of the match will be city labor and other in-kind services.
Although some work has already begun, clearing clumps of willow trees that have grown up around the banks of the pond, most of the planting and trail-building will take place next spring at the site which is south of Interstate 74 and immediately north of the Fiberteq plant.
Lane said the paved path will be 8 feet wide and about three-quarters of a mile long and compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The shelter will have two or three picnic tables, he said, and although city personnel will still have to mow small areas near the shelter and the designated parking area, it won't take nearly as much time or fuel.
He said native grasses, trees and shrubs will be planted, especially types that produce berries that can be a food source for animals, primarily birds. Lane said he's estimated about 1,300 plants will be used, and the group Pheasants Forever is planning to donate the native grass seed. Lane also wants to enlist volunteers to do the planting. He said it may be an Earth Day or Arbor Day project next year.
Mike Yusko, environmental health and safety leader at nearby Fiberteq, which makes fiberglass mat products, said the path will be very convenient for any of its 82 employees. Yusko also said some employees involved in the company's wellness program might take advantage of the walking path.
John Vogt, human resources leader at Fiberteq, said about 50 percent of the employees participate in the voluntary wellness program that offers incentives for participation.
"It's been growing, and it will continue to grow," he said.
Lane said the Southgate habitat area and trail will be open to everyone once it's finished.
"I'm just excited to do this. I think it will be really nice," he said.