Local trail grant recommended for Kane County

Illinois recreational trail projects awarded $3.7 million

A local trail system in the 33rd District could be getting a significant facelift, thanks to the recent announcement that $3.7 million will be awarded for various recreational trail development projects across the state.

Under the program, local grant recipients can receive a reimbursement of up to 80 percent for the cost of trail projects. Grants may be awarded for land acquisition, trail construction, and rehabilitation, purchase of equipment for trail development and maintenance, restoration of areas damaged by unauthorized trail use, construction of trail-related support facilities such as parking and restrooms, and educational programs.

The Illinois Greenways and Trails Council, an advisory board under the purview of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, recommended the funding for 19 designated projects to be used to help satisfy the burgeoning demand for improved trails and outdoor recreation facilities in Illinois.

Included in the list of recommended projects is a $200,000 allocation to the Kane County Forest Preserve District for improvements to the Big Rock Forest Preserve Trail.

Illinois Farm Bureau selects new president for upcoming year

Last week hundreds of Illinois farmers and county farm bureau members gathered in Chicago for the Illinois Farm Bureau’s (IFB) annual meeting. At this annual meeting, the group discusses issues relative to agriculture and the farming community and they create a policy platform.

Congratulations to Brian Duncan, an Ogle County livestock and grain farmer, who was selected at the meeting to serve as President of the Illinois Farm Bureau for 2024. Prior to his selection as IFB President, Brian served as the organization’s vice president since 2017. He also served 13 years as President of the Ogle County Farm Bureau (2004-2017), and has held positions on the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Swine Advisory Committee, National Pork Producers Council Price Discovery Task Force, and the Ogle County Pork Producers board of directors.

Next phase of Illinois’ broadband expansion

As Illinois continues to work toward enhancing broadband access across the state for its residents, the Illinois Broadband Lab (IBL) is collaborating with the Illinois Office of Broadband and the University of Illinois System to take the next step in deploying $1.04 billion in federal Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program funds.

Under the BEAD Program, local governments, nonprofit organizations, and Internet service providers are allowed to challenge the accuracy of the FCC broadband map’s designation of unserved and underserved locations. The hope is that allowing these entities to challenge the map will ensure that federal resources are directed to areas where they are most needed.

Illinois plans to launch its map challenge in January 2024, subject to final approval from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). Interested entities eligible for participation can now sign up for the upcoming challenge process by completing a pre-registration webform.

In preparation for the challenge, the IBL is conducting a series of webinars this December to provide assistance and insight for interested eligible entities.

Upcoming Webinar Details:

  • Tuesday, Dec. 12, 1:00-2:00 pm: BEAD Challenge Process preparations for eligible entities, covering pre-registration, types of challenges, required evidence, understanding and using FCC Fabric or the Illinois BEAD Challenge Map, speed test data collection, and best practices for documenting and aggregating challenges.
  • Tuesday, Dec. 19, 1:00-2:00 pm: A deeper dive into the information covered in the Dec. 12 session.

Participants may register for these webinars here. Additional webinars will be scheduled for early January to help guide participants on how to submit challenges to the Illinois portal before the process formally opens. Specific challenge period dates are contingent on the timing of federal approval.

Learn more about Illinois’ plans to utilize the new federal broadband funds by reviewing the Connect Illinois Five-Year Action Plan. For more information on Illinois’ proposed challenge process, click here.

DeWitte joins local leaders for check presentation to Well Child Center

Last week I was honored to be in attendance for a $20,000 check presentation to the Well Child Center in Elgin. This wonderful facility is dedicated to improving the lives of children and families through education, counseling, and services in the areas of childhood nutrition and pediatric dental health.

St. Charles Mayor Lora Vitek, who works for the Delta Dental Foundation, secured the funding, and it was a pleasure to be with her when she presented the check.

Illinois launches statewide partnership with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library

Last week, the Dollywood Foundation and the state of Illinois announced the launch of an official collaboration to provide Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library statewide. The initiative will receive $1.6 million from the state’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget and aims to enhance early childhood learning throughout Illinois by providing free, high-quality, age-appropriate books to children from birth to age five, regardless of family income.

The Imagination Library was first launched in 1995 and has since evolved into one of the world’s premier early childhood book-gifting programs. Since its establishment, it has distributed more than 220 million free books in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, and The Republic of Ireland, with more than 2.8 million books being mailed monthly.

The program currently operates across 40 counties in Illinois, with more than 30,000 children benefiting. State officials and the Dollywood Foundation hope to ensure that every child within the state has access to the program’s benefits.

Research underscores the critical role of the first five years in a child’s development, with around 90 percent of brain development occurring during this period. Daily readings by parents or caregivers during these formative years significantly contribute to school readiness, impacting long-term health and economic outcomes.

To explore partnership opportunities or check program availability in specific areas, interested parties can contact Pam Hunsaker at Families can check if the program is available in their areas, enroll their children, or sign up for notifications regarding program expansion on the “find my program” page at If no local program currently exists in your area, it is recommended that you visit the website periodically as the program expands across the state.

Illinois launches opioid settlements website

More than $1.3 billion in the form of an opioid settlement will be headed to Illinois by 2038 because of the multi-state lawsuits against prescription opioid distributors, manufacturers, and dispensers for their misleading practices regarding opioids.

Now, the state has officially launched the “Illinois Opioid Settlements Initiative” website to provide Illinoisans with updated information about the settlement agreements. The website will publicly display for interested providers and Illinoisans details on what lawsuits have been settled, how much funding has been awarded in the settlements, how much money remains unallocated, approved abatement uses for the funding, and what organizations have been awarded funding for the state.

Additionally, the new website will serve as the location for future Notice of Funding Opportunities (NOFO) for the distribution of funding for approved opioid abatement uses, with the first NOFO to be posted this month. The Illinois Opioid Settlements Initiative website will also include resources on implementing programs and services that have been identified in the state’s Overdose Action Plan and the Illinois Opioid Allocation Agreement.

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