BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
LEE COUNTY – A project to rehabilitate the Pollmiller Park trail in West Point, got a boost Tuesday night when the board suggested putting $100,000 up front to help secure grants for the work.
At Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Lee County Conservation Board of Directors, Director Nathan Unsworth said committing $100,000 would be a good way to start the effort.
The board approved the motion unanimously.
“We could commit to $100,000 right now,” Unsworth said. “That would be a good starting point for us to show our commitment and it will help us secure grants with some matching funds.”
He said the money would come from about $50,000 in the district’s REAP account, and the rest would come from the conservation district’s trust fund.
The board heard about proposals to rehab the trail at it’s last meeting, which included a $250,000 milling and asphalt seal. There was also an option to completely pull up the trail and put down a concrete trail, but that carried a heftier cost.
Unsworth said he met with the West Point Community Club and said they are more inclined to go with the concrete options and rebuild the trail.
“The consensus of the West Point community is to set the bar high for the trail,” Unsworth said.
“The West Point committee would like to see us pursue expanding the trail and going with concrete, which we know increases the cost. But they are willing to dig in and help us find the financing.”
The trail is currently eight feet across, but Unsworth said the Community Club would like to see it expanded to 10 feet with the concrete.
Unsworth said he’s currently working on a grant with an application deadline of next week. He said he’s also researched other grant opportunities for the project.
The project is probably a 2022-23 budget year project, but could happen sooner if financing comes in line quicker, Unsworth said.
In an unrelated issue, the board heard from Jim Noll, a conservation advocate in Lee County who’s spearheading an effort to get Mississippi River Pool 19 in Lee County declared a wildlife refuge.
Noll has been researching the project for about three years and says when the Army Corp of Engineers dammed the river at Keokuk it backed up the waters and flooded most of the islands damaging the ecosystem.
Noll said his focus now is connecting with Illinois legislators and community officials in Hancock County.
He said U.S. senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, both Democrats, are critical as contacts because of their position in the majority party in Congress.
“The ultimate goal is to attain sponsorship from Sens. Durbin and Duckworth over there,” Noll said.
“Durbin is the Majority Whip and Duckworth has been involved in many programs she’s had success getting passed. Those two secured $21 million through Congress for a similar project in Quincy.”
Noll said he’s received letters and resolutions of support from more than a dozen municipalities, schools and other partners.
He also wants to get more information to elected officials in Lee County.
“I’m working at getting information into the hands of newly elected officials and hope to get them a bit more excited than they have been so far.”