Students from Black Hawk College and five local building trades partner to bring accessibility to Rock Island County Forest Preserve facilities

October 12, 2017

Rock Island County Forest Preserve District is partnering with five local building trades and Black Hawk College students to help bring accessibility to Loud Thunder Forest Preserve and Illiniwek Forest Preserve.

Beginning this Friday, Oct. 13, at Loud Thunder, students in the college’s Highway Construction Careers Training Program (HCCTP) will work alongside journeyman from the following building trades to build new park features to accommodate persons with disabilities. 

Partnering building trades:  “When I talked to Jeff Craver about these projects earlier this year, I knew we wanted to help,“ said Jeff Deppe, Laborers Local #309 field representative. “Laborers as a trade are taught to give back. The kids learn skills, the trades give back and the parks become a little more fun for all.“

Loud Thunder’s projects will consist of a new ADA-accessible parking lot ramp and sidewalk to the Martin/Parchert Picnic Pavilion. Projects will also include a bathroom remodel to make the restroom facility ADA-accessible.

Following Loud Thunder’s projects, work will start at Illiniwek Forest Preserve during the week of Oct. 16. Students and journeymen will construct ADA-accessible parking spaces for use at the Illiniwek picnic shelter, and will pave a new sidewalk to allow wheelchair accessibility from the parking lot to the picnic shelter. Rock Island County Forest Preserve District will provide all construction materials.  

“The HCCTP students learn in the classroom and in the field,“ says Paul Fessler, HCCTP program manager. “The projects at Loud Thunder and Illiniwek are exactly the type of hands-on experiences that will make them strong candidates for careers in building trades.“

HCCTP is an intense 13-week program that prepares students for a variety of construction careers and is funded by the Illinois Department of Transportation.

“This is precisely the kind of community engagement that helps the district fulfill its mission of connecting people with the natural landscapes that make our community such a great place to call home,“ says Kai Swanson, Rock Island County Forest Preserve president. “Thanks to the partnership with Black Hawk College and the local business trades, we're not only helping make public lands more accessible to more people, we're given the opportunity to assist in preparing the next generation of construction leaders – the true builders of our community.“

Students and laborers will start construction at Loud Thunder Forest Preserve, 19408 Loud Thunder Rd., Illinois City, Ill., on Friday, Oct. 13 at 9:30 a.m. Construction at Illiniwek Forest Preserve, 836 State Ave., Hampton, Ill., is expected to begin on Tuesday, Oct. 17.

For more information on this project contact Jeff Craver, Forest Preserve District director, at 309-795-1040 or For more information about the building trades, contact Jeff Deppe with Laborers Local #309 at 309-786-5479. And to get more information about HCCTP – including the next class that starts in March – call Paul Fessler at 309-796-5729. 

THANK YOU, HCCTP students, Laborers Local #309, Cement Masons Local #18, Carpenters Local #18, Plumbers and Pipefitters Local #25 and Bricklayers Local #6!