The Forest Preserve District of Will County’s Board of Commissioners approved a balanced 2018 budget on Thursday, November 9, that features a $1 million capital enhancement plan for preserve and trail improvements.
“We’ll continue to focus on enhancing and improving preserves and trails to better accommodate visitors and expand opportunities to enjoy the forest preserve system,” said Ralph Schultz, the Forest Preserve’s chief operating officer.
The $47 million spending plan includes a $16.7 million operating budget and a $13.8 million corporate fund property tax levy, which will pay for District operations in 2018. The corporate property tax rate is 0.0678 as compared to the current year’s extension of 0.0702, a 3.4 percent reduction.
The budget includes a $300,000 appropriation for the District’s infrastructure, maintenance and replacement program, which will expand to include bridge and shelter rehabilitation.
“Our commitment to maintaining and enhancing our existing forest preserves helps us protect the investment our communities have made in their forest preserves,” said Board President Suzanne Hart.
The District continues to maintain its AA+ credit rating, which it has had for the past seven years.
“The Forest Preserve not only offers excellent opportunities for our residents to enjoy their many trails, facilities and programs, but also prides itself on being financially sound as evidenced by its strong AA+ credit rating,” said John Gerl, the Forest Preserve’s chief financial officer.
One big project that will be funded in the 2018 budget is a major regional trail connection along Black Road that links the DuPage River Trail in Shorewood with the Rock Run Greenway Trail in Joliet. The link will include pedestrian bridges over both Interstate 55 and the DuPage River. The District’s 2018 budget includes $759,000 for the $2.6 million project, which is primarily being funded by two federal grants administered by the Illinois Department of Transportation.
Other budget highlights include:
- A new shelter at Isle a la Cache Preserve in Romeoville. This shelter will be big enough to accommodate 200 people and to host events and a variety of education programs. Also, accessibility improvements will be made to the preserve’s walkways and amphitheater.
- The trailhead at Schneider’s Passage along the Centennial Trail in Romeoville will be upgraded with expanded and improved parking, a new latrine and benches.
- A 0.9-mile section of the Normantown Trail will be constructed from 111th Street south to Rockwell Lane in Wheatland Township. Simultaneously, developers will be constructing a 1.4-mile section of the trail from Vermont Cemetery south to 111th Street. Both sections are expected to open in 2018.
- A new, larger event shelter will be built at Whalon Lake in Naperville. The shelter will accommodate 200 people and it will replace a smaller lakeside shelter that has a 25-person capacity. The smaller shelter will be relocated to the north side of the lake along the trail.
- More than 4 miles of the asphalt Hickory Creek Bikeway in New Lenox and Mokena will be reconstructed to improve accessibility.
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