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Rails to trails project in Peoria and Fulton counties gets new life

February 07, 2012 at 11:03 PM

Peoria Journal-Star

PEORIA — A proposal to build a recreational trail across part of Peoria and Fulton counties may be getting new life.

On behalf of six area governments, led by Peoria County, officials will soon apply to the state Department of Transportation for a grant to cover half of the $1.3 million cost of converting a 25-mile stretch of abandoned railroad into the Hanna City Trail.

If the effort, initially considered in 2010 when a previous grant application was rejected, ends up being successful, it could fast become “an attractive recreational asset for the greater Peoria area,” Peoria County Administrator Lori Curtis Luther said.

The formal application to IDOT is expected to be sent within days, seeking funds to buy and improve the onetime rail spur owned by the Union Pacific Railroad Co. It led to a Fulton County strip mine when it was first constructed in 1883, but the Union Pacific declared its intent to abandon the line - called the Elm Industrial Lead - in 2010. The Union Pacific has gradually removed many - though apparently not all - of the railroad ties in the years since, indicating it is no longer interested in the property.

The trail would start east of Bellevue and close to Kickapoo Creek Road. It would continue roughly parallel to Farmington Road through Hanna City into Farmington and Fulton County.

In 2010, the various government bodies agreed to pursue the potential development of a trail which could connect with the Kickapoo Creek Road and Canoe trails as well as linking up Wildlife Prairie State Park and becoming a part of the network leading into the Rock Island State Trail.

The various governments would have to come up with the remainder of the money needed to buy the 29 acres of land covered by the trail, put gravel in place along it and maintain the property.

If the grant comes through - far from a certainty given state money woes - a new trail is worth looking at, one County Board member said.

“These rail to trail projects are good for quality of life,” said Stephen Morris, chairman of the county’s land use and transportation committee. “People who use them enjoy them. I don’t hear anything but good stuff about the trails we have.”

He also said, however, that a decision to move forward depends on whether money is available to cover some of the costs through the grant, and, from there, whether “this is a good use of limited government resources” from local governments.

Even if the grant application is successful, it is unclear what amount of money each of the governments involved in the trail coalition - Peoria County, Fulton County, Farmington, Hanna City, Bellevue and West Peoria - would have to contribute to the remainder of the cost of building the trail.

Chris Kaergard can be reached at 686-3135 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow him on Twitter @ChrisKaergard.

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