As the Nov. 6 general election approaches, state and local officials this week outlined policies and procedures designed to protect against cyber threats.
In other news, many of Illinois’ parks and recreational trails and facilities will benefit from the release of state and federal funding earmarked for improvements and maintenance at these sites.
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
Recently, more than $14 million in capital improvement project funds were released by the Governor’s Office for 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. In our region, Mississippi Palisades State Park, located in Carroll County, is receiving a $467,700 grant to update facility infrastructure.
Other projects include 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, and Kankakee River State Park in Kankakee County.
Investment in 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.
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, facilities to
receive financial boost
During the 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. These projects ensure safer recreational opportunities and enhance the quality of life for local residents, and 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 most recent RTP projects include:
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.