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Print

Closing Hennepin Canal cuts tourism

September 05, 2008 at 06:32 AM

of the Peoria Journal Star

Recreation isn’t the only victim of Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s decision to shut down 24 tourism sites.

Closing 13 historic sites and 11 state parks will hurt - and perhaps kill - many tourism-dependent businesses.

To illustrate, let’s take a ride down the Hennepin Canal Parkway State Park. The 100-mile canal itself stretches through Henry and Bureau counties. In the waterway you can boat, canoe and fish, then camp out along the shores.

But the park stretches beyond the water. In 2000, the state built a $9.5 million bicycle path next to the canal. Hiking paths allow 155 miles of foot trekking. Horse paths permit 48 miles of galloping. And hunters can enjoy archery deer season in the fall.

But all this will end Nov. 1, because of the governor’s budget cuts. All but one of the 15 workers will be let go at Hennepin Canal, and visitors will be barred from using any of the facilities, even the bike path.

Josh Anderson, 35, of Bradford is incensed. He doesn’t have any big-bucks friends with hunting grounds, so he depends on the Hennepin Canal to hunt deer. Its closure affects his pocketbook.

‘Now we have to buy other meat,’ Anderson says.

Plus, for the lack of hunting, he fears an explosion of the deer population.

‘The deer herd will grow basically unchecked in these areas, which is kind of funny because the state apparently doesn’t have any money to clean up road kill,’ he says.

But even worse, he says, will be the economic gut-punch to canal-connected businesses.

Let’s start to the northwest, in the Henry County town of Geneseo, population 6,980. For 40 years, you could find overnight accommodations at the Geneseo Campground.

Owner Sharon Weber doesn’t think that’ll be the case for long. The canal and campground depend on each other: without the canal, the campground can’t survive.

‘We are anticipating (the closure) will make business go away,’ she says. ‘If you can’t fish, if you can’t hike or bike, all we would be is a place to park rigs and sleep.’

East down the waterway, you’ll find the village of Sheffield and its 946 residents. At the Chestnut Street Inn bed and breakfast, about one of five summertime visitors is a bicyclist using the canal. Owner Monika Sudakov shakes her head at the idea of unused rooms after the canal shutters.

‘That stinks,’ she says. ‘We do get a lot of (canal) people who stay here.’

Further east lies Wyanet, population 1,028. There, the Wyanet Locker has processed meat for decades. Owner Pat Wood says he isn’t sure how many of his customers hunt on the canal. But he figures his deer-processing business will take a hit at least ‘a little bit.’

At Hennepin, home to 707 residents just past the eastern terminus of the canal, The Rolando Supper Club has been serving grub for eons. Hunters make for the bulk of its business, says owner Georgia Menendez.

She isn’t sure how many of her customers hunt or otherwise use the canal. But she doesn’t like the notion of losing a draw like the canal.

‘Every time you close something down, you hurt other places,’ she says.

Maybe closing the canal and the other sites saves the state some money in the short term. But in the long run, their emptiness might have far worse effects on the Illinois economy.

Your CommentsComments :: Terms :: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Why would Blago give a hoot about the Illinois economy. His wallet isn’t getting any thinner.  He’s the first that should have the budget cuts. Then maybe then he would do what the people of this state voted him in for.
Josh Anderson can call me, I would be happy to harvest a deer to help his family in these troublesome, yet ignorant times.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09/06 at 04:00 AM

I am incensed by this decision. I bought a home along the canal specifically for kayaking and fishing and now they are going to close it!!I think Blago should be impeached.
Laura

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09/07 at 10:24 PM

Laura, you said a mouthfull!! Ol Rob Blago (“Bag-of-Tricks”) and his Cook County Chicago politics NEED TO GO!! This is a huge and gross disregard of the IL poeple and clearly displays Blago’s inability to represent the people’s interest’s of IL. I am sure our taxes and the fines for ‘trespassing’ on the Canal will pay for his family to build a $500,000+ home on the canal so THEY can enjoy the wildlife.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09/08 at 02:13 PM

I film movies at locations of the canal, some of the locks… Blago is a moron.  Why doesn’t he make a change that will actually do something.  The canal?  What is the point of that?  It’s a stupid decision.  Barred off or not he can suck a fat one I’m still going to use it even if it is closed down.  What complete d-bag.  That really burns my ass.

Posted by Daniel Smith on 09/08 at 03:25 PM

Im a democrat but I think blago is an idiot for closing the canal wtf is he thinking? How stupid can one perosn be to cut funding for any state parks because people are suppose to enjoy them not watch them fade away

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09/08 at 04:28 PM

Why would anyone want to close a beautiful place like the Hennepin.  My husband and I have walked, relaxed and fished there for years.  Our Govenor, obviously, has never had the opportunity to spend a day or an afternoon there.  It’s a shame.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09/08 at 04:47 PM

They won’t let you fish there any more, but I’ll bet they’ll still sell you a fishing linces!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09/09 at 04:39 PM

Wow, someone should kill him. I’ll still go to the canal. If they fine me, screw ‘em. I wont pay anything. The canal is there, they can’t fine me for going to the canal. He is doingt his so he gets more money to fly his private jet. He only cares about Chicago… this is why I don’t vote for anyone because of the stupid crap they do… I’m not going to be responsible for electing a morron.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09/09 at 07:40 PM

It is my understanding that the IDNR is self-supporting because of hunting and fishing licenses and other usage fees. It seems like camping fees have doubled in some places. It cost $120 to camp from Thursday to Monday at Johnson Sauk Trail over Labor Day weekend. So instead of closing all of parks why not just take them out the general fund? In light of the lost tourist dollars closures will result in this seems to be a much better solution.

Posted by David Shaver on 09/13 at 07:17 AM

I grew up fishing this canal and still take my Dad there after over 50 years. It is so sad that when the money crunch comes into being, places like this historical site are looked at for closing. Millions were just invested in a bike trail! What are we doing to the next generation and where will they have to go and enjoy the outdoors???
Why does our Governor have to fly home to Chicago everynight, like someone said above and then back to Springfield everyday??? I would think that should be the first place to help cut costs and help hold this GREAT family recreation and tourism center opened. I can hardly wait for election time, WE NEED A BIG CHANGE IN SPRINGFIELD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09/15 at 10:32 AM

Here’s a good youtube video about it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3LMTrdIZj8I

Posted by John Harplander on 09/16 at 11:32 AM

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