As the November 6 election approaches, this week state and local officials outlined policies and procedures designed to protect against cyber threats.
In other news, the state’s parks and other recreational trails and facilities across Illinois will benefit from the release of state and federal funding earmarked to finance improvements and maintenance at these sites.
Illinois State Board of Election outlines election cybersecurity efforts
Election officials recently outlined steps they are taking to eliminate hacking risk and ensure voter information and votes aren’t compromised in the upcoming election.
State Board of Elections officials say that they will be vigilant in surveying for hackers by closely monitoring Illinois’ voter databases to identify cybersecurity threats. More extensive firewall protections have been installed to protect election results and voter records, cybersecurity experts have been hired to watch for irregularities, and local election officials have received thorough cyber training. Illinois National Guard cybersecurity specialists will also be on standby to provide cybersecurity support in the event the Board of Elections needs assistance leading up to or on Election Day.
In 2016, 76,000 Illinois voters’ information was exposed through a data breach. Officials said that though the hackers accessed the voter information, they did not alter votes or election results.
If you suspect that you have been the victim of identity theft, contact the Illinois Attorney General’s Identity Theft Hotline at 866-999-5630.
State parks to see $14 million for improvements
Recently, more than $14 million in capital improvement project funds were released by the Governor’s Office for the Department of Natural Resources’ state parks and recreation areas across the state.
The revenue is part of the bipartisan fiscal year 2019 budget signed in June for improvement and maintenance projects for park infrastructure statewide, including: Argyle Lake State Park in McDonough County, Eldon Hazlet State Recreation Area in Clinton County, Fort Massac State Park in Massac County, the Illinois and Michigan Canal in northeast Illinois, Kankakee River State Park in Kankakee County, and Mississippi Palisades State Park in Carroll County.
Proponents emphasize that the investment in Illinois state parks and recreation areas is not only vital to ensure the safety of park visitors and personnel at the sites, but will be critical to attract visitors from in and out of state. Coming off a record-high tourism year in 2017, advocates stress these sites play an important role in generating tourism dollars that benefit local and state economies.
According to a statement from the Governor’s office, the impacted park and recreation areas include:
Kankakee River State Park, located in Kankakee County, is receiving a $1,855,300 grant to help reopen the park’s campgrounds to visitors.
Fort Massac State Park, located in Massac County, is receiving a $2,796,700 grant to aid in various site improvements and evaluate the current condition of the timber-framed 19th century Fort Massac fort replica to determine how to stabilize the structure and allow public access to the interior grounds of the fort.
Argyle Lake State Park, located in McDonough County, is receiving a $1,805,500 grant to use for dam and boat ramp improvements. The contractor should start work by November 2018, with an anticipated completion by the fall of 2019.
Mississippi Palisades State Park, located in Carroll County, is receiving a $467,700 grant to update facility infrastructure.
I&M Canal located in Will/Grundy County is receiving a $6,672,150 grant to make DuPage River spillway improvements that are needed to ensure public safety.
Eldon Hazlet State Recreation Area located in Clinton County, received $438,900 for much needed renovations to park facilities to ensure the park’s continued ability to provide services to Illinois residents.
All projects are expected to be completed by the fall of 2020, though most will be finalized by fall 2019.
For more information on Illinois state parks and recreation opportunities, go to the IDNR website at www.dnr.illinois.gov.
Outdoor trails and facilities to receive financial boost
This week, the Governor’s office announced 11 Illinois communities are to receive a total of nearly $1.6 million to be used for recreational trail development projects intended to improve trails and outdoor recreational facilities.
The grants will allow local governments to finance trail construction, as well as improvements and maintenance projects. These projects not only ensure safer recreational opportunities and enhance the quality of life for local residents, but draw tourism dollars and development opportunities to these communities and the surrounding region.
The Governor’s office said that grants may be awarded for the acquisition of land from willing sellers, 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.
While grant recipients provide the balance of funding for the projects, the grant funding is supported by the federal Recreational Trails Program (RTP) that will provide an up to 80 percent reimbursement to the communities for the cost of the trail projects.
Illinois’ RTP grant program is administered by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) in cooperation with the Illinois Department of Transportation.
The Illinois Greenways and Trails Council recommended the projects for funding. The Council is composed of representatives of statewide motorized and nonmotorized trail user organizations, statewide agency organizations, organizations involved in greenways and trails, and metro-area greenways and trails coalitions.
Application forms for the next round of grants are available by contacting the IDNR Division of Grant Administration, One Natural Resources Way, Springfield, IL 62702-1271, or by calling 217-782-7481, TDD 217-782-9175, Ameritech Relay 800-526-0844, or on the IDNR website at www.dnr.illinois.gov. The annual deadline to submit an RTP application is March 1.
The most recent RTP projects include:
City of Aurora (Kane County), $140,000 for replacement of a crumbling concrete staircase which connects the south end of the East Branch of the Fox River Trail with New York Street in downtown Aurora. The Fox River Trail extends nearly 60 miles from Oswego north to near the Wisconsin border. The city will install a metal stairway to replace the concrete steps.
City of Charleston (Coles County), $76,100 for trailhead improvements related to the existing 12-mile Lincoln Prairie Grass Trail. Includes the development of new concrete parking with an accessible parking area at Country Club Road, new concrete parking with accessible parking at Decker Springs Road, and new concrete parking with accessible space at the TGM elevator entrance.
Cook County Forest Preserve District, $200,000 for repairs to the underpass at 119th and LaGrange Road and repair of the adjacent trail in Palos Hills. The underpass is on an 8.1-mile trail loop and has a stone aggregate surface. This loop connects to the 20-mile Sag Valley Trail System, which also connects to the 40-mile Palos Trail.
DuPage County Forest Preserve District, $200,000 to construct .6 miles of equestrian/multi-use trail along the northern boundary of St. James Farm. The trail will expand the preserve’s equestrian recreational opportunities and provide links to an existing carriage walk along Winfield Road and to a future trail through Cantigny Park.
Macon County Conservation District, $180,800 to repair three bridges spanning the Sangamon River and Stevens Creek. Wood material used in bridge construction is reaching the end of its useful life and is in need of replacement, while embankment settling and scour erosion require regrading and riprap replacement. The project will replace deteriorated wood and fencing and reshape the bridge embankment.
Village of Mahomet (Champaign County), $98,000 for a concrete trail south from the parking lot through 120 yards of bottomland forest. The launch site will include a small overlook with a bench, interpretive signage, and a turnaround to accommodate visitors with disabilities. The launch will create a concrete ramp with an incline to water level for kayak and canoe launching.
Prairie State College District 515, (Cook County), $135,800 for a 1-mile walking trail. The trail loop will be located in a 30-acre nature preserve.
Rockford Park District, (Winnebago County), $104,000 to develop a 1.2-mile trail at Alpine Hills Adventure Park to provide a unique year-round “gateway” trail for beginner level mountain biking.
Shabbona Township, (DeKalb County), $72,000 for acquisition of approximately 5.7 acres of dedicated right-of-way through purchase, land donations or through intergovernmental agreements between the applicant and four other public bodies. This strip of land will be used to provide 2.5 miles of new paved path connecting the Village of Shabbona to other outdoor recreational opportunities.
Southern Illinois University – Touch of Nature Center, (Jackson/Williamson counties), $200,000 to construct a 5-mile multi-use mountain bike trail that will eventually be part of a 30-mile park. These trails will be natural surface and primarily built by removing the top layer of soil. They will be easily accessible to mountain bikers, hikers and trail runners, but built with mountain biking as the intended primary use.
Village of Tinley Park (Cook County), $192,000 to address the maintenance needs of the existing 2.5-mile multi-use trail which will include patching, resurfacing and restriping the path. Maintenance activities also include minor drainage improvements, small culvert replacement, ditch regrading and landscape restoration.