Process began in December 2016

Were it solely up to Andy Dorian, director of the Hannibal Parks and Recreation Department (HPRD), a much anticipated paved trail extension in the Sodalis Nature Preserve would already be a reality. Unfortunately, however, it's not. Still, Dorian reports progress is slowly being made.

“We're still working on the trail grant,” Dorian advised the Park Board in November. “Everything so far has come back good. Hopefully soon we'll get a final report and get clearance to start working.”

A major hurdle was being undertaken in October when the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review process began.

“That (normally) takes about three months to do,” said Dorian. “But it can take a year just to get through the environmental process if anything comes up and you have to do a phase one (environmental analysis of the property) or seek more public comment. I wouldn't expect anything since it's an old railroad bed, but you never know.

“If everything goes well with that (NEPA review) we'll get notice to proceed and we'll start. Time frame-wise we'd still like to do this in the spring. I can't promise anything until that environmental process gets through.”

One of the first public steps in the process of extending the Bear Creek Trail in Sodalis was taken on Dec. 20, 2016, when the city council approved the purchase of the acre to acre-and-a-half parcel of land by the HPRD for the trail extension from Ronald Caldwell and the Ronnie L. Caldwell and Marilyn C. Webb Living Trust.

Also OK'd that night was a recipient agreement between the HPRD and The Conservation Fund for $19,500. The money was used to buy the strip of land that divided Bear Creek and Sodalis.

In January of last year the Parks Department began the process of pursuing the funds necessary to develop the new public walkway. A grant for $37,497 was sought through a federally-funded program authorized by the U.S. Congress under the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. The FAST Act is intended to help states provide and maintain recreational trails and trail-related facilities.

The HPRD learned last spring that it had been "preliminarily awarded" the grant.

Under grant stipulations the city will need to provide a 20 percent match, which can include in-kind work on the project, plus the $19,500 from The Conservation Fund that went to purchase the land obtained in late December on which the Bear Creek Trail extension will run through Sodalis.

According to Dorian the grant money will be used to cover the cost of base material, asphalt, signage and benches along the new section of trail that will extend to Patchen Street.

Reach reporter Danny Henley at danny.henley@courierpost.com