Despite the cold, wintry rain and wind, the People For Channahon Parks Foundation held their ceremonial groundbreaking Friday afternoon at the trailhead of Arroyo Trails nature park in Channahon.
Local and state dignitaries, Channahon Park District and foundation board members, donors and even children gathered on the property to signify that years of work is finally becoming a reality.
“This has been a work in progress,” said Mike Rittof president for the foundation board and co-chair of the Arroyo Trails Capital Campaign Initiative. “Hopefully next year there will be a ribbon cutting instead of a ground breaking.”
Ron Lehman, a member of the park board and foundation board and co-chair of the campaign, made special mention of a previous Channahon Village board that had the foresight to set aside the property, where Arroyo Trails is located, for recreational purposes.
Susan Landahl, Senior Vice President for Exelon Generation, presented the group with a $150,000 contribution to help reach the fundraising goal of $2 million needed to develop and construct the nature park. The trailhead will be named for Exelon.
“We are very proud to be a part of this,” Landahl said.
The idea to develop a nature park amidst the ravine just west of the DuPage River began about four years ago. The park will include a mile-long walking path, amphitheater for use by schools, organizations, churches and businesses for everything from teaching classes and learning about nature to holding small retreats; natural structures for play; a council ring, picnic shelter and restrooms.
“Arroyo Trails is another example of how public agencies, businesses and dedicated citizens team up and work together to improve quality of life for their community,” Lehman said.
Besides a few amenities, the 78-acre nature park will be left largely untouched to encourage imagination and creativity as well as communing with nature.
“The goal is to make a facility where kids, families, seniors and even businesses can enjoy and connect with nature,” Lehman said.
Thanks to funds raised at the recent Celebrity Style golf outing, lead donations from local businesses, corporations, individuals and foundations, People for Channahon Parks Foundation has been able to raise over $1.2 million. Their goal was to raise 50 to 60 percent of the needed $2 million before breaking ground.
State Sen. Pat McGuire, D-Joliet, was on hand to announce that becausea state budget was passed earlier this year, the $200,000 Recreational Trails Program grant the Foundation received for the project is funded.
“It’s a very exciting day for us,” Rittof said.
A broad-based community outreach to local companies, businesses, community leaders, families and individuals across the three-county area that will be served by the nature park is in the works to bring the foundation closer to meeting their $2 million goal.
All gifts of $5,000 or more will be permanently recognized on the information kiosk in the park.
“Please help us spread the word,” said Lehman, “and encourage others to support the Arroyo Trails project.”