Off-road park to open in 2005

William Charles-linked company will operate facility

Rockford officials and representatives from William Charles Investments announced Sept. 17 the acceptance of a $316,400 state grant to develop an off-highway vehicle (OHV) park in William Charles Investments’ abandoned South Main Street quarry, which is adjacent to the U.S. 20 bypass. The park is expected to open in the last half of 2005, and attract thousands of people annually. Visitors will pay a fee to use the park to a company linked to William Charles Investments, Rocky Glen, LLC.

However, even homeowners who support the project and live next to the proposed park have concerns about possible noise and dust issues. For now, neighbors Tom and Cindy Carey have a “wait-and-see” attitude about the project.

Cindy Carey said she thought the idea that kids will have a place to take their all-terrain vehicles “is great.” But the couple said if the noise increases beyond existing levels, the situation may become intolerable. They said between the occasional planes from the airport and constant drone from the vehicles on the bypass, the noise level is about as loud as it can be and still remain acceptable.

Bryant Vangsness, one of the organizers of Rocky Glen, said they plan to build earthen berms and plant trees and shrubs to buffer noises.

The grant money was partially generated from a $17 fee from the sale of each OHV sold in the state. As to why public money was needed to develop the park, Vangsness didn’t directly answer the question. He described how the fees were collected and distributed by the state. Vangsness implied that Illinois Department of Natural Resources officials were looking to fund a northern Illinois facility rather than another southern Illinois site.

When asked how much Rocky Glen will charge to use the park, Vangsness said: “We haven’t designed the entire schedule. But there would be a daily usage fee.” He added that there would also be group, club and season rates. The company will also collect money from state-required OHV stickers that Vangsness said will be sent to the state.

The park will cover about 120 acres and will feature nearly 12 miles of riding trails and feature a Jet Ski training area, fishing dock and possible GoKart track. The area was a sand and gravel pit between the 1950s through the 1970s, but has been vacant since the early 1980s. The area was also the site for a possible Rockford casino in the 1990s.

Vangsness is a partner in William Charles Investments. He is also the operator of the Byron Dragway. In addition to Vangsness, Timothy Jagielski is another Rocky Glen organizer and employee of William Charles Investments. Rocky Glen’s agent is John T. Holmstrom, William Charles Investments’ general counsel.

Rocky Glen, the company that will operate the park, was formed in April, about five months before it was announced that the funding to build the park had been secured.

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