MOUNT CARROLL – A public hearing has been scheduled for May 3 on a proposed UTV trail in Carroll County.
County Board members have been researching similar trail projects in Jackson County, Iowa, and Lafayette County, Wisconsin. There was considerable discussion on the issue during the board’s April 19 and March 15 meetings.
“I’ve received a copy of the Jackson County, Iowa, resolution dated Jan. 16, 2018, approving a similar trail,” Board Chairman Kevin Reibel said. “That project is certainly something to watch as their trail develops.”
Reibel said the trail resolution proposed in Carroll County is more restrictive than the one approved 4 months ago in Jackson County.
“In thinking about this, I’ve realized everybody in Carroll County that has an older farm tractor is allowed to ride up and down the roads, apparently with no restrictions from the State of Illinois or local authorities beyond the display of a slow-moving vehicle sign. That brought me to thinking about the tractor parade we have, and if it would open the possibility for a 1-day event for a UTV trail if it winds through the county going into the towns. This would bring maybe a hundred or more people to participate, especially if it were to correlate with any festivals held in the county.”
Reibel said he does not believe the board will approve the trail as proposed, but there are other possibilities that would provide the opportunity to assess the benefits and drawbacks of a trail.
“It would be nice to see a 1- or 2-day event per year where the riders would come out and the board and the citizens of Carroll County could see how it functions,” Reibel said. “Maybe that would ease the tensions as far as implementation of a trail.”
County Highway Engineer Kevin Vandendooren said he contacted Lafayette County Sheriff Reg Gill to learn more about that Wisconsin county’s trail system.
“The sheriff said they’ve had a trail open for about 10 years and they’ve had two accidents in that time,” Vandendooren said. “When it first started. everybody had their reservations. They didn’t like it and thought it was going to be a safety issue, but then he said they are a population of 16,000 and have low-volume roads and it has become better accepted.”
Board member Joe Payette said he has done considerable research on the project and cited successful trail undertakings in both Lafayette and Clinton counties.
“I think everything we are proposing has been done already, and I think we will definitely be trail blazers with something like this in Carroll County,” Payette said. “I think that Carroll County, that uses tourism as one of its bragging points, is missing out on an opportunity with this trail project. It is something new and will need adjustment as it gets going, but I do personally think we want to get this going.”
He said the newly proposed route will affect fewer residents, and he suggested a gravel type trail way as a way to encourage trail users to reduce their speeds.
“In addition, the study that was done in Wisconsin with regard to economic development is just mind blowing,” Payette said. “The gross numbers on a trail there were $15 million, and if we even take one-third of that it would be incredible. We’ve got the government entities supporting this where the trail is proposed, so they represent a group of people, and I don’t know if they’ve heard from their constituents., but the point is that it is our job to let it go further if we choose to.”
He suggested the board consider the proposal and let it run for a year.
“We can always change,” Payette said. “Nothing is written in stone, but I think the economic opportunity for these communities that need something is there.
“Yes, it will be an inconvenience for those that don’t want it, but I think with a small adjustment to the proposed trail it will be worth experimenting with. I think we could do this and with the stores and gas stations, the hotels and motels I think the opportunity outweighs the limitations.”
He asked that the board set a deadline for a decision and move forward.
“Instead of us kicking it down the road for more studies, I would like to see us do our job and at least try it,” Payette said.
Board member Ron Preston also encouraged the board to move forward with the project.
“The economic development would be tremendous,” Preston said. “We cannot drive it away. It is going to come and whether you want it or not it is going to be here. Let’s just try it for a year, and if we don’t like it we can just kick it aside.”
In other business, the board heard a presentation from an educator with the Riverview Center and approved a resolution recognizing April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The board also approved the reappointments of Sherry Vidinich and Maria Krull to the Hotel/Motel Board; and Paul Hartman, Bill Wright, Bill Robinson, and Kevin Reibel to the LRA Board.
The next scheduled board meeting will be May 3, at 9:30 a.m. at a location to be announced.