How long is the trail?
The trail, when fully completed, will be 24.5 miles in length. It parallels Rt 150 for most of the route, and spans from Main Street in Urbana to the Vermilion County fairgrounds entrance, just west of Danville.
Who owns the trail?
The trail, which is built on a retired railroad corridor, is located in two counties: Champaign and Vermilion. In Champaign County, it is owned by the Champaign County Forest Preserve District, and in Vermilion County it is owned by the Vermilion County Conservation District. The bridge over the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River in Vermilion County is owned by the IL Department of Natural Resources. The rail corridor was purchased in the winter of 2013/2014.
What uses will be permitted along the trail?
The trail can be used for non-motorized, recreational uses, such as hiking, running, cycling, skateboarding, and cross-country skiing. No motorized vehicles will be allowed other than for maintenance or accessibility purposes. E-bikes are currently under consideration.
What is the timeline for trail construction?
Construction of Phase One West (see map above) began on May 1, 2016, with Cross Construction as the general contractor. Trail construction is progressing from east to west, beginning at Main Street in St. Joseph and heading west to Urbana. We expect that 6.7 mile section of trail to be completed in early July 2017 and open to the public shortly thereafter. However, a rainy spring could delay the completion, so a ribbon-cutting date has not yet been set.
Construction of the entire 24.5 miles will likely be completed in 3-4 phases, aligned with IL Dept of Transportation (IDOT) grants and fundraising efforts. No construction has started on the Vermilion County end of the trail yet.
How long will trail construction take?
There are many variables that can impact the construction timeline, with the weather being the most unpredictable of these variables. Unless we get an unusually wet or snowy year, we expect each phase of construction to take about one year to complete. So, with Phase One West (Main Street, Urbana to Main Street, St. Joseph) beginning in May of 2016, we hope to see it completed by August of 2017.
How can I stay up-to-date on Kickapoo Rail Trail construction?
Email “KRT Updates” to firstname.lastname@example.org and you will be added to an email list that receives periodic construction news. You can also “like” us on Facebook.com/kickapoo.railtrail and follow us on Twitter at @KickapooRT. The trail has a web presence that can be accessed from the Champaign County Forest Preserve District site at ccfpd.org.
How wide is the trail?
The trail is ten feet wide with two foot shoulders on each side. This is the standard width for new multi-use trails to allow cyclists, runners, and walkers to use it simultaneously, pass each other safely, and avoid possible conflicts or collisions.
What will the trail surface be?
The trail surface will consist primarily of compacted, crushed limestone. Crushed stone is popular as a trail surface because it holds up well under heavy use and can complement the aesthetics of the natural landscape. It can also accommodate nearly every trail user (with the exception of inline skaters). Approaches to roadways that intersect with the trail will be improved with asphalt for safety and sustainability. The trail may also be upgraded to asphalt or concrete within the confines of some of the communities along the route, if those jurisdictions desire. Paved options are more expensive than compacted limestone so additional funding would be needed to make those upgrades.
Why do trees and other vegetation need to be removed to build the trail?
During the construction stage, many trees and shrubs will be removed to make the trail safe and accessible. Most of these woody plants have grown up in the years since the railroad was in use. The mowing and cutting of trees can appear devastating, and may seem the antithesis of conservation, but this is the first step in creating a corridor with more diverse and plentiful native plants and wildlife.
The native flora was primarily prairie before the railroad was built. Railroad use kept the ground free of trees and shrubs. When the line was retired by the railroad, time has allowed pioneering woody species to take over. The former railway is dominated by a small number of species, several of which are invasive, such as bush honeysuckle, autumn olive, and mulberry. These fast growing trees and shrubs can quickly create an overstory that shades out the prairie from above, and changes the soil microbial community below. The current removal of trees and shrubs within the construction limits of the trail will provide more daylight and rejuvenate the historical native plant composition along the trail.
The native pioneering tree species that are abundant along the trail, including hackberries and black walnuts will be preserved to the extent possible as long as they do not impede construction efforts.
After construction is completed, the Forest Preserve District will add to the diversity of native trees and shrubs by planting these species along the Champaign County portion of trail over time.
How will trail users gain access to it?
Trailheads will be constructed near both the eastern and western termini of the trail as well as at key access points along the way. Trailheads will provide ample parking plus amenities such as informational and wayfinding signage, benches, shade, and water. Trailheads may not be completed before the trail opens to the public this summer. In the meantime, users can park wherever public parking is legally allowed.
At the Urbana end of the trail, the Forest Preserve District is working on an arrangement that would allow trail users to park in the Walmart lot at High Cross Road and Rt. 150. At this time no arrangement has been reached.
What will I see as I walk or ride the Kickapoo Rail Trail?
The Kickapoo Rail Trail traverses some of the most beautiful terrain in central Illinois. Trail users will see native prairie, wetland, two rivers (including the only nationally designated Wild and Scenic River in the state) and forested areas, along with the diverse flora and fauna that thrive within these habitats. The trail is built upon an historic railroad that carried goods and passengers across the Midwest and, for most of its route, the trail also parallels the Interurban Railroad that carried passengers from town to town in central Illinois. Interpretive signs along the trail will also tell the story of Illinois’ agriculture, as well as the journey that Abraham Lincoln rode on horseback or by buggy along and near this route while he served as an attorney on the 8th Judicial Circuit.
Will volunteers be allowed to help with construction?
There will be volunteer opportunities associated with the maintenance of the Kickapoo Rail Trail; however, construction of the trail will be left to a professional construction firm. Volunteers will be needed to staff an annual River to Rail Bike Ride that raises funds for the trail each September. Specific assignments include registering riders, helping to serve meals, and distributing water and drinks along the bike route.
We are also recruiting individuals to staff outreach tables set up at local Farmers’ Markets to inform the public about the Kickapoo Rail Trail and ways they can support it. Individual non-profit organizations have stepped forward to host their own fundraisers for the project. Different types of opportunities may emerge after portions of the trail are completed. Persons interested in volunteer opportunities should contact the Champaign County Forest Preserve District, at email@example.com.
Have all necessary funds been raised for Phase One West?
Yes! But we are now moving ahead with fundraising for Phase Two in Champaign County and Phase One in Vermilion County. You can help, by making an online donation at kickapoorailtrail.org or by mail to “Kickapoo Rail Trail” at PO Box 1040, Mahomet, IL 61853. As the Foundation is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization, all donations are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.
When will construction of the other phases begin?
Phase One East: Additional funds for the Phase One East leg of the trail (Oakwood to the Vermilion County fairgrounds) are still needed. The State of Illinois has committed a grant of more than $650,000 to this phase; but those funds are held up pending a state budget. In addition, about $250,000 more in private dollars must be raised for Phase One East.
Phase Two West: An application to complete design engineering work on Phase Two West (from Main Street, St. Joseph to the Champaign/Vermilion county line) was recently approved. Therefore, design work could begin later this year and should take about a year to complete. Local funding in the amount of $50,000 is needed to match the $200,000 grant that was awarded.
Additional grants and private dollars will be needed for the construction of that phase, so no work should be expected on Phase Two West for at least two years.
How can someone donate to the construction project?
Donations of any size are encouraged and greatly appreciated. They can be made online at kickapoorailtrail.org or by mailing a check payable to Kickapoo Rail Trail, PO Box 1040, Mahomet, IL 61853. Local businesses, corporations, individuals, or private foundations that are interested in partnering in the trail construction project by making a major gift can receive naming rights based on the level of contribution. Contact Mary Ellen Wuellner at the Champaign County Forest Preserve District for more information, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have a question that is not answered here, you can check the website,www.ccfpd.org/KRT, for more information or send an email to email@example.com.