Trail enhancement ideas presented to Elgin City Council


Trail enhancement ideas presented to Elgin City Council

Brian Smith
Contributing Writer

Robin Bostrom, director of the Turkey River Recreational Corridor (TRRC), and representatives from Trees Forever were in attendance at the Elgin City Council meeting on Monday, July 15, to present ideas concerning bike trail enhancements in and around the Elgin area.

Emily Swihart and Mark Pingenot, field coordinators for Trees Forever, presented concepts and designs for ideas to enhance the bike trail. Trees Forever, a nonprofit organization founded in 1989 and headquartered in Marion, connects people to the environment through the planting and care of trees, prairie, and other natural areas. 

The ideas presented had been brainstormed by the Valley Green Team, a group of Valley middle and high school students that has been working in “visioning sessions” with the TRRC and Trees Forever. Swihart, who is also a design specialist for Trees Forever, showed the council some samples of what suggested enhancements on the trail might look like.

“The students came up with some very good ideas, and we are excited about the possibilities that exist with this project,” said Swihart.

Ideas included; an area near the school designed around viewing an existing eagle’s nest (including a scale model of an eagle’s nest); signage to direct those who travel the trail to nearby services and points of interest; mile markers placed on the trail; improving trailhead areas by adding benches, trees, and other plants; and a mural depicting the fours season of the year on the walls of the underpass of the trail just north of the school.

Everything is still in the planning stages at this point, and the concepts and designs that were presented are intended to keep the council informed of the project and its possibilities.

“We hope to eventually finalize the plans and then prepare to do some grant writing in order to help fund the project,” stated Bostrom.

The timeline for the project has not been set yet, but the group hopes to make some final decisions by January 2014 so it can prepare to apply for grants and plan for other fundraising activities.

Another item of business on the agenda Monday night was the Downtown Revitalization Program. Jim Holz from MSA Professional Services was in attendance at the meeting and discussed the present comprehensive plan. He asked the council if there might be an interest from property owners along Center Street to be involved in a Façade Improvement Program. Under the program, property owners would have the opportunity to improve the front of their buildings at a significant discount. Typically the plan allows for a grant to pay 50 percent of the cost of the improvements, with the city paying 25 percent. The property owner would then pay the remaining 25 percent.

Holz explained, “It is something that many property owners might be interested in taking advantage of. In order to proceed with it, you would need to know how many might be interested and then complete an application, which is due in January.”

The exact cost of renovating or improving each building is difficult to pinpoint, as each building and property owner would have individual needs. There is also the possibility of creating a theme that might connect the buildings along Center Street, as well as the potential of restoring the exterior of some older buildings back to their original facades. The council agreed to allow Holz to contact property owners in order to gauge their interest in a project of this nature.

Holz also provided the council with a tentative schedule for construction on the Center Street Project from Tschiggfrie Excavating. The schedule calls for construction to begin on Aug. 5 and be complete by Nov. 7. A preconstruction meeting with Tschiggfrie is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday, July 19, in Elgin. The council would like to plan a groundbreaking ceremony for the project once all the final arrangements have been made.

In other items of business the council approved the appointments of Lane Ash to the library board and Rhonda Dales as the Turkey River Watershed Management representative. It also approved a resolution setting City employee wages for fiscal year 2014, approved a donation of $1,000 to the Valley Recreation Board, and approved the selling of a tractor owned by the City for a bid of $14,100.

Finally, the council received word from City Superintendent Tom Martin that concrete barricades are now in place at the end of Almira Street, and the barricades for the Boleyn Park alleyway are ready to be placed once signage is received.

The next meeting of the Elgin City Council will be at 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 5, in the meeting room of the Elgin Public Library.

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