MAHOMET — The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is asking the village of Mahomet to take steps to develop the Sangamon River Greenway — or risk losing out on future grant money.
Parks and Recreation Director Dan Waldinger told Mahomet's board of trustees this week that an IDNR administrator called last week to inform them that the project is considered incomplete by the department's standards because it doesn't conform to their guidelines for handicapped accessibility.
If improvements aren't made, Waldinger said, the village won't qualify for future IDNR grants.
"Quite frankly, it came as a shock," Waldinger said, noting that he's been submitting the required post-completion inspection reports and had nothing but positive feedback from the state.
The village originally acquired 32.66 acres along the Sangamon in 1994, using an Open Space Land Acquisition Development (OSLAD) grant from IDNR. The site includes a trailhead near the Sangamon River bridge on Illinois 47, which would have to include an ADA-compliant parking space in order to meet IDNR's guidelines.
At least a portion of the path along the river would also have to be paved.
But Waldinger said the directive from IDNR could be a blessing in disguise, noting that developing the river trail "has always been part of our overall plan, long-term."
The Greenway project is being spearheaded by the Rivertrails Committee, a subcommittee of the village's Economic Development Commission.
Carol Hays, who chairs the committee, gave trustees some background on the project. It's meant ultimately to connect the properties of the Champaign County Forest Preserve District and provide river-centric recreation opportunities in the county.
Plans for the Greenway have been drawn up with the assistance of the Regional Planning Commission and the backing of village and county officials. Many of the members of the Rivertrails Committee also belong to the Upper Sangamon River Conservancy.
Hays said the project offers "unique environmental value for this community," as well as a place for education and recreation.
Trustees were incredulous that IDNR is demanding compliance with guidelines that weren't in effect 20 years ago when the OSLAD grant was issued.
Mayor Patrick Brown said he supports development of the Greenway, and added that improvements to the property could help future efforts to establish a trail. But he said he didn't like the circumstances.
"I'm more than happy to comply and do it, but I don't like how they've approached us with this," he said.
Village Administrator Mell Smigielski said the stipulations of OSLAD grants require projects to be completed within five years. In lieu of that, village officials have been submitting the inspection reports.
Waldinger estimated that an ADA parking space and 750 feet of paved trail could be completed for between $10,000 and $20,000, and asked trustees to consider adding it to the budget for the next fiscal year, which is expected to be voted on next week.
Amelia Benner is editor of the Mahomet Citizen, a News-Gazette community newspaper. For more, visit mcitizen.com.