CHARLESTON -- The city has received state recognition for the work on the trail systems that have been bolstered over the last few years.

Charleston was selected for a 2017 Governor's Hometown Award for the community efforts put into the trails surrounding Charleston Lake and branching out into the rest of the city. Charleston Mayor Brandon Combs made the announcement Friday through a Facebook post.

The award program gives formal recognition to those who have contributed to their community’s quality of life via projects that have strong volunteer support, met a need, and made a definitive impact, the award program website notes.

Awards are given in six project categories in four population divisions, for a total of 24 awards possible. Charleston won the Environmental Stewardship category award in their population division.

Steve Pamperin, Charleston city planner, said this category is largely for parks and recreation-related projects.

As previously reported, the city’s application for the award asked for recognition of the work on the bike trail projects in the city and of the people who made it possible including volunteer biking groups, Charleston Charitable Foundation and city crews.

“I am happy that everyone involved will have formal recognition,” Pamperin said.

Along with formal recognition, the city will be getting a plaque and a road sign. Plans have not been finalized, but the plaque will likely go up at city hall and the road sign will be on display along Illinois Route 16 as a people enter the city, Combs said.

Combs said it is a “win” not just for city staff but the community. The trail system started as a more grassroots volunteering effort by some in the community seeking to formulate a trail system along Lake Charleston.

Local residents have been building and fine-tuning the trails for three years, and now the trail system stretches nine miles, Combs said.

He said it is a big deal for the community, and it is special that those in the community who help get recognized for that work.

“This is a huge honor for our community and EIU,” Combs said in the Facebook post. “This couldn’t have been done without all the countless hours put in by several members of our city staff who worked off the clock on this project, as well as many volunteers from the community who helped us with a video presentation.”

Combs said he hopes to have smaller signs made to then be placed along the trail as further appreciation of the community’s efforts on the trail.

“The people that love this community made this happen,” he said.

Combs said this award just puts Charleston more on the map than it already is. The trail has drawn in hikers and bikers from across the country from states out West to more eastern states like Ohio, he noted.

Work is still continuing on the trail system to bolster existing trails and add new connections. Currently, city crews are updating the parking at one of the trail entrances.

“We are not stopping here,” Combs said.


Jarad Jarmon is a reporter for the JG-TC. He covers the city of Charleston, Eastern Illinois University, Mattoon schools and the Regional Office of Education.

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