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Advocates Make One Last Push To Bring Hanna City Trail To Fruition

The long-envisioned Hanna City Trail could bring new economic development opportunities to western Peoria County, but time is running out to secure the 25-mile long corridor.

That's according to Reema Abi-Akar, a planner with the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission. The stretch of land running from Bellevue to Farmington was a Union Pacific railroad line until it was decommissioned in 1980. The idea to convert the corridor into an outdoor recreational trail has been floating around for more than 20 years, but hasn't come together yet. In 2015, the state budget impasse foiled a $750,000 grant to purchase the property.

Credit Courtesy Tri-County Regional Planning Commission
A map showing the proposed route for the Hanna City Trail.

Abi-Akar said the federal grant process is changing next year, making this the last chance to easily acquire the land from Union Pacific before it's broken up into smaller parcels.

"After April 2021, it would not be as straightforward to purchase the whole corridor. And just the thought of purchasing bits and pieces would really not make it a trail," she said.

The land's appraised value has increased sharply in the past few years. The Tri-County Regional Planning Commission is applying for more than $2 million, with local communities along the trail potentially providing a $420,000 match.

The idea for a trail running from Bellevue to Farmington has been in the works for more than 20 years. The planning commission is currently circulating a petition to help secure the federal funding to buy the corridor before its broken up and sold off to different private entities.

A petition was recently created to gather stakeholder support for the trail initiative.

"This would show that this would be not only something that people want, but something that people would use," she said.

Abi-Akar the Hanna City Trail may bring benefits mirroring what the Rock Island Greenway has brought to Peoria, Dunlap, and Alta, including new housing developments along the trail, the revitalization of Junction City, and the new Kellar Station development in an old Illinois Department of Transporation building along Knoxville Avenue.

"It's really a lot of positive forward moves. With bringing people to the area, and locals being able to go different places, and different options to live," she said. "It really has a lot of ripple effects around the region."

Abi-Akar said it's a longer-term vision to potentially connect the Hanna City Trail with the Rock Island Greenway. There's also a possibility it could one day intersect with a proposed Yates City Trail in Knox and Fulton counties, she said.

A trail also adds value to a region by creating a dedicated space for non-motorized, or "human-scale" travel, she said.

"When we plan for transportation, a lot of times people just think about roads, or cars, or buses. But it's really much more than that," she said. "It brings it down to walking scale. You look around, you see the atmosphere around you. You see all the fields and forests that we have in our region."

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