THE LIGHTED pedestrian trail and bike path connecting Clat Adams and Edgewater parks along Quincy's riverfront will finally become a reality after the City Council last week signed off on an intergovernmental agreement with the Park District to move forward with the project.
The move was the final hurdle in a painstaking process to develop the link that was first proposed as part of the Quincy Greenways and Trail Plan adopted by the City Council in 1999, a comprehensive blueprint for a citywide trails system.
Once finished later this year, if the construction schedule is met, the trail and path will enhance the investments the Park District has made in both parks in recent years and provide Quincyans with another much-needed riverfront use.
The project calls for an 8-foot-wide pedestrian trail and bike path, security fencing along the water treatment plant, landscaping and lighting. It also will provide additional parking at Clat Adams Park, and a new paved entrance for both Edgewater Park and the Northside Boat Club over the railroad tracks along Front Street.
Once the trail is in place, bicyclists and pedestrians will be able to travel between the two parks, with bicyclists able to hop on the bike lane on Front Street from Bonansinga Drive north to Bob Bangert Park.
Eventually, trail users will be able to connect with a completed Cedar Creek Trail, which is designed to run from Bonansinga Drive east to 36th Street. The Cedar Creek Trail is finished between 12th and 18th streets, and a major fund-raising campaign is nearing completion to extend it to Fifth Street.
That is the kind of system planners envisioned many years ago, and the kind of investment that sets Quincy apart as a progressive community committed to enhancing the quality of life for all its residents. This is the kind of vision that led to the development of Quincy's extraordinary park system over many years, and builds on that foundation.
Moreover, such investments provide significant economic benefits. In the short term, they help to sustain or add to local payrolls. The most important economic development benefit, however, may be long-term and largely unrecognized.
Recreational opportunities, health care services, the quality of education and a commitment to the arts -- these and other areas that directly affect the daily lives of residents -- provide communities with an important advantage in attracting and retaining businesses and top talent. With investments today in projects like the trails network, Quincy brightens its economic future.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin secured $245,000 in federal appropriations for the riverfront project in 2008, and the city was awarded a $262,460 grant through the Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program the following year.
The city is contributing $122,293 in tax increment financing money as a match to the state grant.
The 8-6 vote to approve the intergovernmental agreement was surprisingly close. Some aldermen objected to using state and federal money to help fund the project in the current economic climate, preferring instead to return the money and allow another community to benefit.
The philosophy of casting votes to "send a message" to elected leaders in Springfield or Washington D.C. has become more prevalent in recent years, but it is not a productive approach.
The primary responsibility for aldermen is to act in the best interest of Quincy and its residents. Failing to follow through with a project that will enhance the quality of life in the community falls short of that standard.
Reasoned and thoughtful governance sends the better message