Marseilles Mayor Jim Hollenbeck said news the city will be receiving $200,000 in state grant money for a new boat launch was a great way to start his week.
Or the decade, for that matter.
Gov. JB Pritzker's office announced Monday that Marseilles was one of six communities selected for grant funds to improve public boat access areas in Illinois.
The Illinois Boat Access Area Development Program provides financial assistance to local government agencies for the acquisition, construction and expansion or rehabilitation of public boat and canoe access areas on Illinois’ lakes and rivers.
The city swapped land with Nucor for a proposed boat launch along the Illinois River just southeast of Marseilles Elementary School.
Hollenbeck said the boat launch project has been decades in the making.
"I am very happy we were awarded this grant," he said. "This has been a long-term goal for several decades and was part of the comprehensive plan in the late 1990s. I am very excited that we were able to complete acquisition of the property and subsequent grant on behalf of the late Mayor (Jim) Trager as he had also worked very hard on this."
When the project was proposed at a public hearing in August, an outline showed a boat launch and floating boat dock as well as concrete bathroom facilities, a 38 trailer-stall parking lot and a 12-car parking lot just south of Broadway Street and the homes on Carpas Lane. A gate likely will be installed to close off the park when the river is in flood stage, but otherwise it will remain open. Restrooms will operate seasonally.
The boat launch has been on the city's agenda after research in the community showed an interest in boating and fishing options as well as attracting tourism. The city received 30 letters of support from community members in its grant application.
Hollenbeck is excited about the impact the launch can have in boosting tourism in Marseilles. Boat launches in Seneca and at Illini State Park reach their capacity often, he said.
"It will bring a lot more people into town," the mayor said. "That means a lot more people supporting local businesses. Eating at restaurants. Going to gas stations. It will be a good asset."
Hollenbeck said the grant will cover nearly half of the $403,000 project. The remainder of the funds will come from the tax increment financing district.
"I need to find out some more info on what's next," Hollenbeck said. "There's quite a few trees in the area that we'll need to clear out, and that may be the next step is to get bids on tree removal, but we have to figure out what needs to be done there."
Hollenbeck said the Illinois River is scheduled to be closed to traffic and drained near Marseilles while upcoming work is done to the locks. He suggested this may be a good time for construction of the boat launch.
Marseilles received the maximum $200,000 in grant funding. In total, the state distributed $653,710. Other projects were awarded to Calumet City, Jacksonville, Marengo, Galesburg and the Cook County Forest Preserve.
Applications for grant assistance were received July 1 through Aug. 19. Revenue for this program is derived from marine motor fuel tax and boat and canoe registration fees, according to the governor's office. Local entities interested in the program can download the Boat Access Area Development Program manual at https://bit.ly/38z5IkV.