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Charleston council supports bike-pedestrian bridge grant

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CHARLESTON — The city of Charleston continues to move forward with a bike-pedestrian path for the Lake Charleston area that's being touted as a tourist destination "for generations to come."

Benefits of the project to build the path to connect the lake to the nearby Warbler Ridge Conservation Area is also being touted as a safety benefit for bikers and walkers who might have to otherwise traverse a busy highway in the area.

If grant funding for the project is approved, construction of the path could begin in early 2022, city Planner Steve Pamperin told the Charleston City Council during its meeting Tuesday.

The council voted to support the $2 million-dollar grant request to the Illinois Transportation Enhancement program.

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A $1.8 million matching donation from the Lumpkin Family Foundation will cover the remaining funds needed for the project. The application is due Nov. 2 and will include numerous letters of support for the project, Pamperin told the council.

The plan is for a 10-foot wide path starting in the area of the lake's spillway pavilion, going under Illinois Route 130 before bridging the Embarras River and connecting with Bypass Road on the other side of the highway.

It would connect there to one of the public trailheads at Warbler Ridge, which is owned by the Grand Prairie Friends, a private conservation organization.

"This project will create a key transportation facility," Pamperin said. "This will help establish the region as a downstate destination for generations to come."

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He also said the grant application will include information showing "a steady stream of deliverables" in the form of similar city projects such as the "complete makeover" the Lake Charleston area has received in the last six years.

Steep road inclines and fast-moving traffic at the Route 130 entrance to the lake create safety issues and it's "not uncommon" to see bicyclists and pedestrians on the shoulder of the highway, Pamperin also said.

Brendan Lynch, who serves on a city advisory committee that works on trail projects and related efforts, also spoke about the safety benefits of the project Tuesday.

"It's absolutely a critical terminal to avoid for cyclists," he said of the current road configuration. "If you can remove the barrier, I think you have something to jump on."

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Pamperin said a 25-year maintenance plan is a required part of the grant application and the city will be responsible for the path's maintenance.

The state program was also the source of grants Charleston and Mattoon used for recent improvements to the Lincoln Prairie Grass Trail, the biking and hiking path that connects the two cities.

In a related item Tuesday, the council also approved an easement agreement with Hutton Township to allow work on Bypass Road in conjunction with the project.

Also during Tuesday's meeting, Mayor Brandon Combs announced that the city's trick-or-treat hours will be 5-8 p.m. on Oct. 31. The announcement came later than in most years because of coronavirus pandemic concerns.

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"I know the kids will be happy to get out and trick-or-treat in lieu of everything they've had to miss," the mayor said.

Combs urged trick-or-treaters to follow the Illinois Department of Public Health's guideline for Halloween activities, an online link to which is available on the city's website, charlestonillinois.org.


Photos of Charleston's past 

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