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Illinois charitable groups and charitable people are figuring out how to make impactful contributions to their communities’ Triple Bottom Line through trail development. We see Quincy Rotary Club & Friends of the Trails, Friends of the Cal-Sag TrailPush for the Path in Yorkville, and Effingham County’s TREC as models that will help Illinois communities hedge against a flawed state and federal approach to trail building.

How flawed? One current example: the Illinois Department of Transportation sent its award recommendations for the Illinois Transportation Enhancements Program—$50 million in federal money, with millions for trail projects!—to Governor Quinn in early October 2012 for approval to meet the agency’s own October awards announcement deadline.

That was three months ago. As costs go up, and towns and park districts remain in limbo about capital plans, as letting dates for construction slip…we’re still waiting.

We congratulate Quincy’s Rotary Club and Friends of the Trails on taking a local stake in the health and economic vitality of their community. 

Today, tell your state senator to pass IDNR’s funding package

Wyoming trail depot on Rock Island State Trail

The state legislature is likely to bring the Illinois Department of Revenue's sustainability package to a vote this veto session, maybe as early as today. Use this link to make sure your state senator knows that you believe a strong IDNR is key to Illinois' quality of life:

Go to action form

You might recall (or not*) that the IDNR’s sustainability bill, a package of program and policy changes that would, among other things, restore the defunct Illinois Bike Path Program, fell three votes shy of passing this spring under the General Assembly’s post-midnight-last-day-of-session super majority rules. The IDNR and supporting legislators feel the votes are there this fall to pass it. We’d feel a whole lot better if a few of you took 93 seconds* to write a quick note to your legislator.

(* Springfield Journal-Register has a nice summary of the issue this morning)

(** I - SB -just used the form. That’s how long it took, and I’m pretty wordy)

Governor Quinn will NOT opt out of Recreational Trails Program

The Illinois Department of Transportation told us this morning that they’ve ”received official notification today that the Governor is not opting out of RTP for TA funding in MAP-21.”

We reported in the August-September 2012 Trail News that the new federal law not only lowered dollars available for trail development, but put two programs under the guillotine: MAP-21, the fed’s transportation bill, allows governors to opt out of the Recreational Trails Program AND allows a state’s DOT to move half of the dollars set aside for Transportation Alternatives, the successor to Transportation Enhancements, into other transportation programs.

A few weeks ago, Illinois pledged not to transfer money from the Transportation Alternatives program. We’re relieved and proud that Governor Quinn will maintain dedicated funding for the Recreational Trails Program as well.

Join us in thanking him! Use the governor’s form to thank him for preserving funding for recreational trails, preserving a powerful way for local agencies to improve access to Illinois’ beautiful outdoors, in ways that provide economic, environmental and quality of life benefits as well.

You can read more about MAP-21 and its implications in Trail News. Happy Friday, everyone!

In honor of Dick Westfall, act today to save the bike path program

Dick Westfall at 2011 MATAG in Fort Wayne, IN

Make a call today - it will take you less than one minute - to your state senator and ask that they support SB1566. It could save many programs at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, including the defunct Illinois Bike Path Program.

Illinois’ fight over pension legislation rages on today in Springfield. The cuts are deep.

Trying to gain traction is SB1566, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ funding legislation. Here’s the fact sheet, and the full text. Last night, IDNR director Marc Miller posted a video, which summarizes what’s at stake.

The bill will boost funding for the bike path program by 33%, meaning an estimated $1.4 million more for the program, which historically - at least until 2008 - awarded approximately $3 million annually to park districts and communities for trail development.

Since the early 1990s, the Illinois Bike Path program has been ably directed by Dick Westfall, section manager for the IDNR’s Trails and Greenways program. Dick convened the first Conservation Congress, designed the state’s first trails plan, shepherded the development of signature projects such as the Grand Illinois Trail, and helped four governors set the priorities for federal trail grants.

He’s retiring today, after 30+ years of service. The pension legislation will impose a major penalty on his retirement should he stay. Dick says it is a rushed decision that he didn’t want to make. While the final pension bill may well bolster Illinois’ fragile budget, it’s costing Illinois trails a brilliant and committed manager and leader.

In light of Dick’s departure, I guess you could call your senator to support the IDNR funding legislation out of irony. I feel a little of that. But overwhelmingly, I’m calling out of respect for Dick Westfall and his enormous contribution to trails and quality of life in our state.

Make a call today.

We Choose Health: Funding for Healthier Illinois Communities

The Illinois Department of Public Health has been working overtime to get this off the ground: We Choose Health, a $25 million, CDC-funded program to award grants to communities & public agencies ready to build a healthier Illinois.

All of the money is to be spent OUTSIDE the Chicago metro area—left out are Cook County, DuPage County, Kane County, Will County, and Lake County. And 35% of the money available MUST be spent in rural Illinois.

Counties, municipalities, park districts, other public agencies and non-profits can apply for up to $300,000/year for four years. For what kind of programs?

Nutrition, yes. Non-smoking programs, of course. But also: biking and walking programs and facilities, like Safe Routes to Schools, safer streets for walking and biking, and trails.

We believe that trails have a difference-making role to play in reversing an alarming slide downward in quality of life in Illinois. We celebrate that public health is encouraging walking and biking opportunities for all of Illinois!

Public health wants to turn your home into your trailhead!

Let us know if your community or agency is planning to apply for a grant. We’ll celebrate their desire to raise the quality of life in their community! If we can help, let us know: We’ve worked on CDC bike/walk grant programs like this before. Drop us a line

Another link to the We Choose Health page

Governor Jim Edgar

Governor Jim Edgar established the Illinois Bike Path program while he was Secretary of State in 1989. The program, administered by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, set aside a couple bucks from the motor vehicle title fee for multi-use trail development, paying up to 50% of construction costs for towns and park districts. Up until 2008, the program provided $3 million a year toward trail development. Jim Edgar set Illinois on a path toward better health, economic opportunity, and environmental stewardship—the Triple Bottom Line.

We’re going to Champaign to meet him today, and we can’t wait. The IDNR bike path program hasn’t awarded funds for a trail project since the ‘08 financial collapse, though it still receives funding from motor vehicle title fees. Illinois governors and department heads have been pulling funding from all pots to keep the government’s nose above water.

We’re going to talk about connecting trails in Illinois. Governor Edgar had a vision of trails connecting Indiana to Iowa, Wisconsin to Kentucky. That’s our mission! We can’t wait! 

I spent a near-80 degree afternoon in Effingham yesterday walking the Calico Trail, a ribbon of concrete that plunges, rises and twists through gorgeous woodlands, with Frank Brummer. (We put up photos from the walk on Flickr.) 
Frank’s the president of League of Illinois Bicyclists, and president of Trail Recreation in Effingham County, or TREC. Frank’s involvement with TREC can be directly credited for their success in getting the Calico Trail planned and built; about 2 miles of the 3+ mile trail is complete while the rest, primarily bridges over the Little Wabash River and I-70 is under construction.
While he has doggedly and expertly advocated for the trail with public agencies, Frank’s been especially adept at bringing in the private funding that fuels the project, particularly by shaking loose public funds: Frank estimates that TREC has leveraged hundreds of thousands of dollars in private donations to raise $5-6 million in just six years for the trail.
We like to study the process behind trail development, particularly when it’s successfully leveraging private funding and investments. We’ve been enamored by the success of Terry Whaley at Ozarks Greenways, Terry Eastin and Little Rock, AR’s Medical Mile, and Fort Wayne Trails' work Indiana. So the time Frank spent with me walking the trail yesterday was welcome (I'd been sitting in a dark, cold conference room for a rural health workshop, of all things), encouraging and educational.
I want to share with you some takeaways from our conversation that I think are replicable by trail-builders across the state. We’ll call them Frank’s Principles:
1. Use the Three Ws to upgrade your board. For many trail builders, the task at hand is to find funding. Frank says that when he joined TREC’s board, the board members were primarily like him—people who loved trails and wanted more opportunities to ride them. He asked them to resign. “You only need one or two people passionate about trails on the board,” says Frank. To take their seats, he recruited a former bank president, the CEO of the local hospital, a CPA, a prominent lawyer…. Frank uses the three Ws as a screen for board members: Work, Wealth, and Wisdom. “Two of those is better than one,” for a board member says Frank. “But they got to have at least one.”
2. Fundraise using the 80-20 rule. "Eighty percent of your fundraising comes from 20% of your supporters," says Frank. That means focusing fundraising on the big check writers, and leveraging small events as friend raising, not fundraising. "I don’t want someone to give $10, get a free burger and feel like they’re pitching in," says Frank. "I’d rather boost numbers by giving burgers away for free." Boosting numbers of supporters gives politicians cover to support a project. And big supporter numbers prove to business leaders and private donors that the return in good will and recognition will be worth the big check.
3. Bring credibility to the ask. Frank has tremendous standing in the community as a father, a business leader, as a tireless volunteer. But he’s also put his own skin into the Calico Trail, making a substantial monetary donation of his own as well. When he takes a donor out to dinner, he makes sure they know of his personal commitment. And he piles on the credibility by bringing a board member to the ask whom the donor is likely to know and respect.
4. Identify a kick-off donor. For each phase of the Calico’s development, Frank has first identified and worked to win a kick-off donor, typically with the promise of naming rights. Again, it’s about letting others know that someone else has skin in the game—people feel better about decisions, including decisions to donate, knowing they’re not alone.
5. Sell everything. Benches line Calico Trail, each with a plaque acknowledging the donor. Kiosks, trail markers, and trail maps will offer donors naming opportunities, as will the bridge over the Little Wabash. The benches, markers and kiosks can bring thousands of dollars each—”We ask the donor based on what we think they can give,” says Frank. Naming rights to 160-ft. Little Wabash bridge will be $100,000 or more.
6. Make friends to influence people. The head of the local IDOT district who initially wrestled with Frank over adding trails and bike accommodations is a Frisbee golf player, Frank discovered. “I told him I had an 18 hole Frisbee golf course on my property, and I found out we have a lot of shared interests.” The district head now serves as an engineering advisor to TREC. “It’s just like doing business—you have to start with relationships. TREC doesn’t even have a website yet, or its own phone number. I told the board I don’t need that yet; I’ve got to get to know people.”
How are you getting your trail project funded and built?

I spent a near-80 degree afternoon in Effingham yesterday walking the Calico Trail, a ribbon of concrete that plunges, rises and twists through gorgeous woodlands, with Frank Brummer. (We put up photos from the walk on Flickr.) 

Frank’s the president of League of Illinois Bicyclists, and president of Trail Recreation in Effingham County, or TREC. Frank’s involvement with TREC can be directly credited for their success in getting the Calico Trail planned and built; about 2 miles of the 3+ mile trail is complete while the rest, primarily bridges over the Little Wabash River and I-70 is under construction.

While he has doggedly and expertly advocated for the trail with public agencies, Frank’s been especially adept at bringing in the private funding that fuels the project, particularly by shaking loose public funds: Frank estimates that TREC has leveraged hundreds of thousands of dollars in private donations to raise $5-6 million in just six years for the trail.

We like to study the process behind trail development, particularly when it’s successfully leveraging private funding and investments. We’ve been enamored by the success of Terry Whaley at Ozarks Greenways, Terry Eastin and Little Rock, AR’s Medical Mile, and Fort Wayne Trails' work Indiana. So the time Frank spent with me walking the trail yesterday was welcome (I'd been sitting in a dark, cold conference room for a rural health workshop, of all things), encouraging and educational.

I want to share with you some takeaways from our conversation that I think are replicable by trail-builders across the state. We’ll call them Frank’s Principles:

1. Use the Three Ws to upgrade your board. For many trail builders, the task at hand is to find funding. Frank says that when he joined TREC’s board, the board members were primarily like him—people who loved trails and wanted more opportunities to ride them. He asked them to resign. “You only need one or two people passionate about trails on the board,” says Frank. To take their seats, he recruited a former bank president, the CEO of the local hospital, a CPA, a prominent lawyer…. Frank uses the three Ws as a screen for board members: Work, Wealth, and Wisdom. “Two of those is better than one,” for a board member says Frank. “But they got to have at least one.”

2. Fundraise using the 80-20 rule. "Eighty percent of your fundraising comes from 20% of your supporters," says Frank. That means focusing fundraising on the big check writers, and leveraging small events as friend raising, not fundraising. "I don’t want someone to give $10, get a free burger and feel like they’re pitching in," says Frank. "I’d rather boost numbers by giving burgers away for free." Boosting numbers of supporters gives politicians cover to support a project. And big supporter numbers prove to business leaders and private donors that the return in good will and recognition will be worth the big check.

3. Bring credibility to the ask. Frank has tremendous standing in the community as a father, a business leader, as a tireless volunteer. But he’s also put his own skin into the Calico Trail, making a substantial monetary donation of his own as well. When he takes a donor out to dinner, he makes sure they know of his personal commitment. And he piles on the credibility by bringing a board member to the ask whom the donor is likely to know and respect.

4. Identify a kick-off donor. For each phase of the Calico’s development, Frank has first identified and worked to win a kick-off donor, typically with the promise of naming rights. Again, it’s about letting others know that someone else has skin in the game—people feel better about decisions, including decisions to donate, knowing they’re not alone.

5. Sell everything. Benches line Calico Trail, each with a plaque acknowledging the donor. Kiosks, trail markers, and trail maps will offer donors naming opportunities, as will the bridge over the Little Wabash. The benches, markers and kiosks can bring thousands of dollars each—”We ask the donor based on what we think they can give,” says Frank. Naming rights to 160-ft. Little Wabash bridge will be $100,000 or more.

6. Make friends to influence people. The head of the local IDOT district who initially wrestled with Frank over adding trails and bike accommodations is a Frisbee golf player, Frank discovered. “I told him I had an 18 hole Frisbee golf course on my property, and I found out we have a lot of shared interests.” The district head now serves as an engineering advisor to TREC. “It’s just like doing business—you have to start with relationships. TREC doesn’t even have a website yet, or its own phone number. I told the board I don’t need that yet; I’ve got to get to know people.”

How are you getting your trail project funded and built?

Nice picture and story yesterday in St. Louis Today about a trail group once again doing dirty, blessed work.
Federal trail grants are necessary. In Illinois, they are also inefficient—they add up to 30% to a trail project’s cost—and frustrating, sometimes adding years to completion. The International Mountain Bicycling Association groups—like GORC in the St. Louis/Edwardsville area, CIMBA around Lake Shelbyville, and CAMBr—often take a more direct route. 
To make every home a trail head, Illinois has to seed and cultivate diverse models for funding and building trail. Who else out there is grabbing shovels or raising funds and getting it done in Illinois?

Nice picture and story yesterday in St. Louis Today about a trail group once again doing dirty, blessed work.

Federal trail grants are necessary. In Illinois, they are also inefficient—they add up to 30% to a trail project’s cost—and frustrating, sometimes adding years to completion. The International Mountain Bicycling Association groups—like GORC in the St. Louis/Edwardsville area, CIMBA around Lake Shelbyville, and CAMBr—often take a more direct route.

To make every home a trail head, Illinois has to seed and cultivate diverse models for funding and building trail. Who else out there is grabbing shovels or raising funds and getting it done in Illinois?

We believe that the highest, best use for public funding of trails is trails.
From February-March 2012 Trail News, “IDNR trail funding—It’s broke, needs a fix.” Read the issue.

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA)Last Friday, still dripping from a wave of support from Illinois and the rest of America to preserve trail funding, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee released its draft transportation reauthorization bill that shrinks trails funding for the next two years by more than $80 million, from $1.15 billion to $833 million. And those funds are no longer set aside by mandate for pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. They can be raided by the state for more roads.

This moment, right now, is why Trails for Illinois matters to your life, your community. Two reasons:

1. Less obligation for Illinois to spend federal funding on trails means more depends on relentless & statewide trails advocacy. If the Senate language survives markup—and our DC friends say it will, as Senators Boxer and Inhoefe have prevented amendments—it will set the tone for the transportation debate in the U.S. House. And if Illinois gets the flexibility to let itself off the hook from creating safe, convenient, and sustainable pathways for enjoyment and transportation, then our relationship building and advocacy in Springfield and in Illinois lawmakers’ home districts—already a critical and core activity—will directly impact whether dollars are spent on trails—or not.

2. Statewide trails advocacy is key to the federal transportation fight. Senator Boxer’s bill backtracks on promises she made to trail advocates this past summer, and it’s lowered our expectations for the Senate’s version of the transportation bill. But passage in the Senate remains, and the House gets a say; one of the things they’re saying is lawmakers want a 6-year transportation bill, not a 2-year as the Senate is likely to propose. There are a lot of wins left on the table for trails, and capturing them requires the diligence, connections and quick feet that only a statewide trails advocacy organization can provide.

We’ve been waiting for the larger battle for federal trails funding to begin, and, with Boxer’s stunning draft, suddenly find ourselves in it. While you consider your end-of-year giving, please consider that the fight for continued federal investment in trails for Illinois has suddenly begun. Trails for Illinois needs your year-end gift to fund the work ahead.

Please use our simple and safe donation page hosted by Razoo.com to pledge your support for Trails for Illinois. We’re working with our Washington, DC partners to craft a strategy in response to Boxer’s draft, and that will help shape our strategy here in Illinois. Within a week, we should have a plan of action for your involvement. Stay tuned, and thank you for reading! And remember to give!