CENTRAL ILLINOIS — A trail, running from Urbana to Danville, is moving forward. Phase 1 of construction on the Kickapoo Rail Trail was approved in a Thursday night meeting of the Champaign County Forest Preserve District.
Supporters say it’s been a long time coming. It doesn’t look like much now, but the raised patch of grass running along Route 150 is going places.
“We’ve been waiting for this kind of a trail for a long time.”
Runners, bikers, walkers; the Kickapoo Rail Trail will have space for them all. One day, the trail will stretch about 24.5 miles between Urbana and Danville.
“A lot of people are looking for a chance to get on their bike, in a low-stress environment, so this is just like riding through a long, linear park.”
Jeff Yockey is the co-director of Champaign County Bikes. His group has been hitting the pavement in support of the trail since it was first announced.
“If you look at all the amenities for bicyclists, all the things that you can put into place, education, infrastructure, one of the things that’s missing for us is just a long trail.”
The project’s foundation was set in 2013 when the Vermilion County Conservation District and Champaign County Forest Preserve District first drew up plans. But, a series of funding issues stalled the progress.
For Phase 1 West, the 6.7 mile stretch from Urbana to St. Joseph, engineers expected a cost of about $2.4 million, but construction bids came in about $400,000 more than that.
“A lot of people have been waiting a long time to get this started and wondering if it ever would.”
They weren’t just waiting. Cyclists and other private donors have raised thousands of dollars for the project and gave the Champaign County Forest Preserve District the momentum it needed to okay construction to begin.
“Even just a mile of road costs a lot of money. A parking lot costs a lot of money, so yeah, there’s a lot of money involved, but we’re creating an asset for the community that’s going to be there for a long time.”
Yockey says he knows the community will continue to push forward til the whole trail’s behind them.
“We want this. This is our trail. It’s for our community and we’re going to be there to support it.”
The Champaign County Forest Preserve District hopes to keep the enthusiasm up to help bring in continued donations for the project. They hope to get cost estimates and timelines for Phase 2 put together soon.
They said this about Thursday night’s vote:
In the community, surveys we conducted, trails were the number one amenity the community wanted. We are excited to be working with the Vermilion County Conservation District to bring the Kickapoo Rail Trail to the area. It will offer lots of amazing opportunities now and into the future.