OREGON – The Oregon Park District is hoping to get a state grant to beat a path to its door to help pay for a trail system, and it’s asking Ogle County for some help.
On Tuesday, the district got it.
Ogle County Board members voted to help pay for an engineering study for a bike path that would connect Oregon to Lowden State Park.
The county will pay a portion of a study that could help improve the odds of getting an Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program grant the district has applied for to help pay for the $1 million project, dubbed the Rock River Heritage Trail.
The District will pay $21,000 of the $59,000 study, with Oregon and the county splitting the remaining $38,000.
Board chairman Kim Gouker said the grant would cover 80 percent of the trail’s cost and the park district and city would pay the remaining 20 percent.
“They will not be asking us for anything more,” Gouker said.
Board member Marcia Heuer wanted to know the grant application’s chances of success.
Engineer Curtis Cook from Chastain & Associates LLC, Rockford, said that while success is not guaranteed, last year the state didn’t award any ITEP grants without a Phase 1 engineering study.
Pat Saunders cast the only dissenting vote, voicing concerns that the county could be facing even more state revenue cuts in the coming year.
She said property values have rebounded somewhat in the past year, but are still below pre-2008 levels, resulting in reduced real estate tax revenue for the county.
“I have nothing against bikers, but as you all know, I don’t like spending a lot of money,” Saunders said.
Board member Greg Sparrow said that drop in revenues is part of what makes the path more appealing, pointing out that the path could bring in revenue from bicyclists.
“This is the kind of thing that brings in money and decreases our dependency on the state legislature,” he said. “This is money well-spent.”
Scott Stephens, co-founder of Bike Ogle, said existing trails have already attracted bicyclists to the county. The group’s first Tour of Scenic Ogle County in September drew more than 300 bicyclists from several states.
“We’re already becoming known as a good place to come and ride your bike,” he said.