First KRT section almost ready to open

Jamie Pasquale, executive director of the Vermiion County Conservation District, talks about the Kickapoo Rail Trail project while standing on a Vermilion County portion of Phase 2 earlier this week.

DANVILLE — It might not be ideal weather right now to use the Vermilion County portion of the Kickapoo Rail Trail, but some warmer weather for Illinois standards this time of year is returning next week.

Vermilion County Conservation District Executive Director Jamie Pasquale said the trail also could be used for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. He said the trail is for recreational uses such as walking and hiking, running, biking and even skateboarding.

Work has started and still continues on the Kickapoo Rail Trail’s second phase in Vermilion County despite the early winter weather.

The first section in Oakwood hasn’t officially opened yet, but local residents have started using it already, Pasquale said.

A last remaining item to finish up, Pasquale said on Wednesday, was the calcium chloride stabilization.

This year’s Phase One construction of the Vermilion County portion by Cross Construction has been on an almost 2-mile section extending from the western edge of Oakwood, west of Oakwood Street in Oakwood, to Gray’s Siding Road in the area of Dunbar Bucktown Tree Farm.

Engineering and construction cost about $900,000. Funding came from donations and an Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program grant.

The ITEP grant provided 80 percent funding. The remaining 20 percent came from private donations. Vermilion County Conservation District funds or local real estate tax dollars were not used to construct the trail.

Pasquale said with the weather and the trail not officially open, a grand opening likely won't occur until next spring.

Halverson Construction Co. started work earlier this month on Vermilion County’s Phase 2 of the Kickapoo Rail Trail. This next segment picks up at the Gray's Siding location along U.S. Route 150 and continues east for 1.5 miles to the Vermilion County Fairgrounds.

“The bridge is going to be a big draw,” Pasquale said.

A large portion of Halverson's construction work will be placing a new wooden bridge deck with metal framing on the existing trestle bridge for KRT users to cross the only national wild and scenic river in Illinois, the Middle Fork River, according to the KRT non-profit foundation.

Halverson removed the railroad tiles from the trestle bridge earlier this month and also removed some large trees that are in the path of the trail to prepare for the limestone bike path.

The bridge section is owned by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the $3 million construction cost will be paid for by an ITEP grant and the IDNR.

Halverson hopes to have construction completed by next year. It’s a 150-working-day project.

Pasquale said they’ll work through the winter as much as they can.

The trail, which is being built on a retired railroad corridor, will extend 24.5 miles from Kickapoo State Park in Vermilion County to Urbana.

The rail corridor was purchased in the winter of 2013/2014 and work on the trail began in the spring of 2016. The 6.7-mile Urbana to St. Joseph trail segment opened to the public in 2017.

In Champaign County, the trail is owned by the Champaign County Forest Preserve District, and in Vermilion County it is largely owned by the Vermilion County Conservation District.

When the Vermilion County portion is finished, it will be about 3.5 miles or longer. Questions remain whether the trail will be connected into Danville.

There’s been talk of having a 20-space parking area and outhouse facilities at the trail along Route 150 as part of the Phase 2 KRT section, and possibly putting in a playground and nicer facilities in the future at the Oakwood KRT section.

Pasquale said the KRT has been talked about for more than 20 years and having it become a reality is another great accomplishment for this area.

In addition to the trail, he also said Oakwood is kind of becoming a booming place off the interstate with all the truck stops and development.

FUNDRAISER TONIGHT

KRT at Sleepy Creek fundraising event will be 7-10 tonight at Sleepy Creek Vineyards south of Oakwood. There will live music provided by "The Live Jukebox Show with David Howie," a 50/50 raffle, trivia games and more fun additions to the event this year. Auction items include Illinois Men's basketball game tickets, two film passports for the Virginia Theater, season tickets to attend Danville Dans baseball games, membership to Urbana Park District's Indoor Aquatic Center, unique baskets and homemade items.

All proceeds raised will directly benefit the construction and development of the Kickapoo Rail Trail. Tickets were limited at $50/person which includes hors d'oeuvres, one free drink ticket and the live music. Table sponsorships also were available with 10 tickets for $450.

For tickets and more information, call 217-586-3360 or 217-442-1691.

Fundraising for the KRT is primarily conducted by the Champaign County Design and Conservation Foundation and the Vermilion County Conservation Foundation; as well as several other supporting groups and friends of the trail, including the Vermilion County Friends of KRT volunteer group.

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