The biggest hit to cyclists is closure of the Hennepin Canal Parkway State Park, left, a linear park in northwest Illinois that boasts more than 90 miles of towpath — 30 miles of it paved — as it crosses six Illinois counties.
The towpath is a popular route for bicyclists. A portion was used during the 2008 Grand Illinois Trail and Parks bike ride (GITAP) this summer.
Statewide, the Department of Natural Resources is padlocking 11 state parks to save $14 million. The parks will be closed to everyone as of Nov. 1.
Many of us are familiar with canal towpath routes on the C&O Canal in Maryland and along the Erie Canal in New York. They're safe, straight, level rides that roll along historic canals. Any elevation changes are imperceptable and marked by old canal locks. The adjacent canals make the routes seem more wide open than many rail-to-trail routes through woodlands.
Hennepin Canal stretches from Green Rock in the west to Bureau Junction in the east, between the Green and Rock rivers in the west to the the Illinois River. It opened in 1907 but was soon obsolete, which is probably why we've never heard of Green Rock and Bureau Junction.
Closing the park means that 14 of its 15 employees will be laid off. The gates that deliver water from the Rock River south through the feeder canal to the main canal will be shut. If the park closes, the News-Tribune says, the canal will become a stagnant dead zone. Anyone using the park will be charged with trespassing.
The Quad Cities Bike Club is just one of a number of organizations — including fishing groups — trying to keep Hennepin Canal park open. Here's what they have to say about it:
“The outcry from many individuals and recreational organizations saved the Hennepin Canal in 1951 and in 1970. We are being asked to save it again. Please encourage all the Individuals and organizations you know of to call and to write their local officials and the governor. Please let them know that you object and why to the closure of the Hennepin Canal Parkway State Park and the removal of its maintenance personnel.”
That plea is echoed by the Better Fishing Association on Northern Illinois, which called a rally at the canal.
To contact Gov. Blagojevich:
Office of the Governor
207 State House
Springfield, IL 62706
Phone: 217-782-0244 or 312-814-2121
Thanks to theboy at Rocky Hillside for passing this along