Hanna City council ends village’s involvement with trail project
Attempts to convert a 25-mile stretch of a decommissioned railway corridor in western Peoria County into a nature trail appear to have reached the end of the line, at least for now.
The Hanna City village council on Tuesday voted unanimously to terminate a purchase agreement with Union Pacific, end a grant process with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), and conclude all other involvement with the Hanna City Trail project as it’s currently constituted.
“I think it's important to understand that this board has been very favorably supportive of the trail and worked really, really hard to try to make it happen,” said Brian Baylor, the village administrator.
“We find ourselves in a position where if you go down the list of items that stand in our way and the deadlines and the dates, we're just at a place where it's impossible I think for us to proceed.”
In development for more than 20 years, the Hanna City Trail project hit a series of snags in recent months.
Janaki Nair, an attorney who represented the village’s interests related to the project, said the federal Surface Transportation Board (STB) failed to meet a March 30 deadline to approve Hanna City as the trail sponsor. With no extension of the deadline, the village was not authorized to close a sale for the trail property.
On Feb. 15, Hanna City executed a purchase agreement with Union Pacific in the amount of $1.96 million, after receiving confirmation from IDNR of a grant award for $1.66 million to cover 80% of the sale, with the village set to share the remaining 20% with Peoria County and the city of Farmington.
But Nair said IDNR recently notified Hanna City it would only reimburse the village for 80% of a discounted appraisal the agency received, for a maximum amount of $864,000. Additionally, the village hasn’t been able to finalize an intergovernmental agreement with Farmington or the county to share operational expenses and liability.
Nair said IDNR also added a requirement for Hanna City to develop the trail over the coming years, including making it compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Baylor said the end of the project in its current iteration doesn’t mean there might not be future opportunities to develop the trail. Nair said it’s possible the STB could retroactively extend its deadline and still authorize the village to close the sale.
But village trustee Caleb Johnson said he doesn’t think it will be feasible.
“Even if the STB retroactively acts, even if the IDNR funding increased, even if they were lenient on three years without a larger agency in with Hanna City, it's dead in my mind,” he said. “Hanna City can't take on 25 miles of trail to improve or develop and be entirely responsible for it. There's impossible hurdles in the way and they're not all going to be cleared.”
Hanna City Mayor Anthony Fryxell said seeing the project fall apart after two decades of effort was difficult
“There's lots of people that have done a lot that are going to be hugely disappointed at this point,” said Fryxell. “I think we've given it the best effort that we can at this point in our day is going to fall short. We're going to need to regroup and see where we're at.”