Work will begin soon to protect a major tourist attraction in northern Illinois. Following a meeting this month of local and state officials, a steering committee will soon be appointed for the Hennepin Canal.
The canal is 105 miles long and crosses five counties, with its western end in the Quad Cities.
The chair of the Henry County Board, Roger Gradert, says one major concern is maintenance - DNR staff overseeing the Hennepin Canal State Park has dropped from 15 to 4.
"So as you can imagine, to try and get anything done along there, plus maintain and mow the trails, and upkeep the brush and stuff, is a practically impossible task for them."
The steering committee is made possible by a recent state law allowing local groups to work with the Illinois DNR to maintain parks.
"This trail is part of a national bicycle path and an Illinois bicycle path, so it's very important. About one million people enjoy that canal a year, and we're really hoping to be able to set up so we can work with it and maintain it."
Gradert hopes members will be chosen during the next few weeks, so the committee can begin meeting in March. That way some work will be underway by the time mowing and other summer maintenance has to start.