With help from state agencies and volunteers, recreational trails around Lake Shelbyville can become an even bigger attraction for visitors.
A recent public meeting plans were presented for the General Dacey Trail and improvement desires for Chief Illini trails and various agencies and organizations voiced their support for the projects.
"The master plan for the Dacey Trail is to go around the (lake) project," said Lake Shelbyville manager Ricky Raymond.
An expansion of the General Dacey Trail north to the Country Club Road is planned to begin as early as next year. That portion of the trail will be a more challenging than the current portions of the trail.
"Trails vary from easy to more difficult," said Dacey Trail chairman Jerry Yockey. He added that the committee has been using the trails at Camp Camfield as an example in the development of the Dacey Trails.
The Dacey Trail has three phases, with varying degrees of difficulty, which loop an area adjacent to Forest Park in Shelbyville and Corps property on the west side of Lake Shelbyville. Other phases of the trail travel around the dam, Dam East and Spillway recreational areas. Other expansions of the trail planned will bring the trail into Shelbyville and back to Forest Park.
Yockey said that fundraising continues for maintenance on the existing trails as well as for expansion projects.
"Maintaining the trails is just as important as building them," Yockey said. "We have an excellent volunteer group who helps with building and maintaining."
The General Dacey Trail has been recognized as a National Recreational Trail. It is open to walkers, runners, and bikers.
The recognition was awarded by the Department of the Interior..
Diane Banta, outdoor recreation planner for the National Park Service, spoke on the power of partnership in working on projects that improve the quality of life.
"We look at how to make the cost less by bringing together resources," Banta said.
Steve Buchtel, executive director of Trails for Illinois, spoke on trail usage and community benefits.
"More than one-third of trail users spend money during their trail visit. Visitors from outside the trail area create an economic impact by purchasing outdoor gear," Buchtel said.
He added that the trail produces a triple benefit in profit for the area, health for users, and protection for the environment.
Buchtel also noted that organizations, such as Americorps and the National Civilian Conservation Corps, can help with trail building projects.
"Lake Shelbyville is our demonstration project for Americorps," Buchtel said.
Louis Yockey, landscape architect with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, said there are IDNR funds available for trail development and that the Greenway Trails Panning and Assistance Program can help to target those funds.
"The idea is to connect local trials to regional and national trails," Yockey said.
Other IDNR trail plans include the Snow Flake cross country skiing trail in Eagle Creek State Park and an equestrian trail in Wolf Creek State Park.
The Chief Illini Trail, which runs 11 miles from Lone Point to Eagle Creek, is the trail in most need of work, according to Corps of Engineers Nature Resource Specialist Phil Manhart.
"One problem with the Illini Trail is users are getting lost. The trail markers are missing." Manhart said.
The trail has been subjected to damage from high water and toppled trees. Bridges have fallen to disrepair and wild brush has overtaken areas of the trail making it harder for people to use.
"We're looking to reroute some areas instead of replacing or repairing bridges," Manhart said.
Manhart also noted that the Camp Camfield trails, which is popular with mountain bikers, is maintained by a group of volunteers.
Buchtel suggested using the NCCC and Americorps to work on the Illini Trail.
Banta said that this is where partnering with agencies and volunteers can help.
"Everybody's hiring for money, everybody's hiring for time. I believe this can be a demonstration project. Partners can provide major maintenance of the trails," she said.
"Lake Shelbyville is a destination but do people utilize it the way they could," asked Banta. "You're looking at a broad base benefit for the community," Banta said.
Also participating on the panel was Eric Harris, representing the Central Illinois Mountain Bikers Association. He and others from the organization offered their help in maintenance work on trails around the lake.
Those with the biggest concerns voiced were area hunters who believe the proposed expansion of the trails would disturb the wildlife.
Others in attendance agreed that the expansion of trails would benefit the neighboring communities.
Shelbyville Mayor Jeff Johnson said the city would support the trails development.
"The trail benefits the cities economically, no doubt about that," Johnson said.