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"I understand that construction of the first 10-mile section of the Kickapoo Rail Trail between Urbana and St. Joe could start as early as next spring. This is a multimillion-dollar public project funded mostly with public funds; yet, a review of The News-Gazette’s archives yields no information regarding the implementing agencies’ prior efforts in coordinating with the public on the specifics of the construction. Can you find out when public information meetings or hearings will be held so that adjacent property owners can assess the impacts to their properties and provide input to the project development process?"
Dan Olson, executive director of the Champaign County Forest Preserve District, said that there are several ways for nearby landowners and others to stay up to date on the project.
"We have several upcoming meetings and electronic outlets for landowners to be informed about the process," he said. "We have three town hall-type meetings coming up over the next several months: December 10 at the Homer Lake Salt Fork Center, Jan. 12 at the new Education Center at Kennekuk County Park in Vermilion County and one on March 9 with the location to be determined. At these three meetings, we will be giving updates to the trail and construction and have specific information for adjacent landowners. However, landowners can get information now through a few social media sources."
Ongoing notifications are available, he said, through the Kickapoo Rail Trail website at www.kickapoorailtrail.org. Quicker updates will be at the Kickapoo Rail Trail Facebook page.
"Probably the best option for landowners is through our email notifications," Olson said. "We are also strongly encouraging landowners to sign up for email blasts specific to the KRT. They will receive announcements on what is going on with the trail and general timelines of construction, etc. To get on that list, individuals would need to send an email to email@example.com with ‘KRT Update’ in the title line."
Olson said trail advocates have had several meetings with community groups, boards and business groups along the trail, as well as informational booths at various events around the community.
"We will continue to be at venues like those over the next several years with information about the trail," he said. "In fact, today, we are having a workshop in St. Joseph for village leaders of the cities and villages along the trail. That workshop is designed for village leaders to learn about, and begin to strategize how they can benefit from the trail and how to engage business owners and land owners."
Two separate segments — one at each end of the trail — are to begin construction in 2016, Olson said.
One section will be from Urbana to Main Street in St. Joseph and the other from Oakwood to the Vermilion County Fairgrounds. Both phases will take more than a year to complete, he said.
"Future phases (as funding becomes available) will include the ‘footprint’ of the trail from St. Joe to Oakwood," he said. "Then a final phase of development of amenities such as bathrooms, parking lots, trailheads, etc. will be planned."