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Wood River Township breaks ground on bike trail

woodrivertownshiptrailLocal leaders joined Wood River Township officials to break ground Tuesday morning on what they say is an eagerly awaited bike trail.

Supervisor Mike Babcock said the trail will be the first of its kind in northern Madison County. Babcock was joined by township trustees Patrick McRae, Greg Withers, Linda Hoffman and Scott Dodson. In addition, County board members James Futrell, Chrissy Dutton and Tom McRae attended as well as Melissa Erker from Phillips 66 Wood River Refinery and Bethalto Public Works Director Rob Cheatam and Bethalto village trustees.

The project began more than eight years ago when former township trustee and now County Board member, Tom McRae, inquired about an abandoned railroad right of way that extends just west of Interstate 255 in Bethalto to Center Street in Rosewood Heights.

“It turned out that the village of Bethalto actually owned the right of way,” Babcock said. “I want to say a special thanks to Tom for his vision and persistence on this project and thank the village of Bethalto and Madison County for their cooperation. I would like to personally thank Melissa Erker and Phillips 66 for their significant financial contribution to make this possible.”

The bike trail will begin at Kutter Park in Rosewood Heights and go north for about one tenth of a mile along Center Street where it will intersect the former railroad bed. The trail will then extend east for about a mile ending just short of interstate 255. The trail will be completely funded through grants acquired through the Madison county Park Enhancement Program, the Metro East Park and Recreation District and Phillips 66 refinery.

“This was truly a public – private partnership” said Patrick McRae, Chairman of the Township Parks Committee. “Without the generosity of Phillips 66 Refinery this project may never have been built. We were able to leverage the private money donated by Phillips 66 as matching funds for other grants.”
“This is an exciting project for a number of reasons,” said Madison County Board member James Futrell, who serves on the counties Grants Committee. “This will not only provide much needed recreational opportunities, but it will actually clean up an area that has fallen into disrepair and improve drainage along the route”.

According to Madison County Transit District data more than 86 miles of bike trails have been completed in Madison County. Most of those trails were former railroad lines that were abandoned in the 1950s and ’60s.

“Although the ‘rails to trails’ bike paths are common in Edwardsville and other parts of the county none exist in our area” said Madison County board member Tom McRae who sees huge potential for the trail. “We’ve worked incredibly hard on this project for years. Our hope is that this is just the start of bike trails in this part of the county.”

County Board member Chrissy Dutton agreed.

“This first mile is really key because it is centrally located and can be hooked on to by communities from the north, east and west,” she said.

According to Babcock the project should be completed by mid-August of this year. “If the weather cooperates we could easily be using the trail by the end of the summer. We anticipate a great deal of usage almost immediately because so many township residents live in close proximity to the trail.”

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