HENNEPIN CANAL IN CRISIS

 

Gary Wagle, of the Friends of the Hennepin Canal, talks about the future of the state parkway at Kiwanis Club of Kewanee members Roger Malcolm, left and Will Sagmoen after giving the program at Wednesdays club meeting.

 

KEWANEE , Age and lack of funding are threatening the future of the Hennepin Canal , marking its 100th year in 2007,

Gary Wagle of Rock Island , president of the board of directors of the Friends of the Hennepin Canal , told the Kiwanis Club of Kewanee Wednesday that the historic landmark may have only 50 more years of useful existence. He said the anniversary of the opening of the canal in 1907 is a good opportunity to raise public awareness of the physical deterioration and cuts in state funding that have placed the future of the landmark in jeopardy.

"Site Superintendent Steve Moser's greatest concern is the hydrological integrity of the canal," Wagle told Kiwanis members. He said reduction in state funding has resulted in "band- aid" patching of damage caused by deterioration of the locks and canal banks over the years. Roots from uncleared trees have attracted rodents and eroded the banks and the canal bed is filling with silt, threatening the future of boating on the waterway.

He also said the state has cut eight full-time people from the staff, including the park interpreter.

Asked why improvements at recreational areas in other parts of the state were being funded and not at the Hennepin Canal , Waple said the trail is one of Illinois ' best kept secrets. "People are just not aware of it," Wagle said. "We need to become more aware of its value and that will take public use and public awareness." He said fishermen were upset when the state built a hiking and biking trail along the canal several years ago, "but people are out there now, more than they were before," he said.

In addition to hiking, biking and fishing, the park offers boating, horseback riding, snowmobiling and restricted camping. The entire 104.5-mile linear locks and canal banks over the state park stretches from years, Roots from uncleared Bureau Junction on the Illinois River to Colona on the .Mississippi and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, It passes through Bureau, Henry, Lee, Whiteside and Rock Island counties The visitors center is located northeast of Sheffield. Pressure for a transportation shortcut that was cheaper then rail led to the construction of the canal in 1907. reducing the distance from Chicago to Rock Island by 419 miles.

As this canal was under construction however, the Corps of Engineers was widening the locks on both the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. With lock chambers 20 and 40 feet narrower than the rivers it connected, the canal was obsolete before it opened.

By the 1930s, it was used primarily for recreational traffic, and was open to boats until 1951. It became a state park in 1970,

The Hennepin was the first American canal built of concrete without stone cut facings. Although the Hennepin enjoyed limited success as a waterway, engineering innovations used in its construction were a bonus to the construction industry. Some of the innovations pioneered on the Hennepin Canal were probably used on the Panama Canal .

There are 33 locks on the canal, Thirty two are still visible. Five of the locks have been restored to working condition,

although they are not used.

More information on Friends of the Hennepin Canal , and the state parkway are available on

the Internet at http://fhcanal.home.mchsi.com

Please visit their site and see what you can do to help!!!

* There is also a link on my Hennepin Canal Page

Article by Dave Clarke of the Star Courier

Permission granted by Mike Berry

Submitted by Jordan Murray

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