lets hope and pray :banana:
SPRING VALLEY - Officials in Illinois are working to construct the missing link needed to create the Grand Illinois Trail, a statewide recreational bike and hiking path.
During a meeting Monday in Spring Valley, U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Peoria, said the trail is a way to bring families together.
The Grand Illinois Trail is a 475-mile trail through northern Illinois that will link Lake Michigan with the Mississippi River and connect metropolitan Chicago, Rockford and the Quad Cities with rural communities, state parks and other Illinois attractions.
LaHood and other area legislators have supported the project and have worked to obtain state and federal funding for its development.
The missing link, a 15-mile gap between the Illinois and Michigan Canal and the Hennepin Canal, is the last stretch of land needed to connect Illinois from east to west. Once completed, Illinois will become the first state to have recreational trails connecting the state from one side to the other.
Under the U.S. Transportation bill, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources was given $800,000 to start building the $4 million trail.
During the meeting Monday, LaHood, U.S. Rep. Jerry Weller, R-Morris, and Illinois Sen. Gary Dahl, R-Granville, talked with local officials and area residents about the plans for the trail.
Weller said the transportation bill really is a quality of life bill, and that Illinois was one of the "big winners" in funding.
"This trail will bring thousands more people. (Trails) bring dollars to the community," he said.
Trail coordinator George Bellovics said IDNR will use the money to research and develop a route for the trail. He expects to start research within the next few months, and it could take 18 months to two years before engineering begins. The department will also be applying for grants from the Illinois Department of Transportation.
Bellovics said options still are being considered as to where to put the trail, which connects the 17-mile Hennepin trail to the 55-mile I and M.
One option is to use a railroad right-of-way with the CSX line that runs between the two trails. Bellovics said this would be the easiest option in terms of construction.
Representatives from the League of Illinois Bicyclists and the American Discovery Trail came to support the project.
Bill Brown, trail adviser for the Illinois Association for Snowmobile Clubs, was happy to see the project is finally under way. He has been working for more than 15 years on the project and even suggested one of the involved cities apply for a municipal grant, which would aid in the costs for the trail.
"We've got to get this thing going," Brown said. "It's been my life dream."[/b]