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Category: Access and Water Trails Development

Illinois Recreational Access Program – IRAP

By Sigrid Pilgrim

With efforts to develop water trails on a number of Illinois Rivers – we wanted to let you know about the IRAP Program by IDNR. This program leases private property throughout the state for semi-controlled public access for outdoor recreational opportunities. Currently, there are three such access sites for non-motorized craft in Bureau and Schuyler counties on the Illinois River, and on the Sangamon River in Sangamon County. Landowners are compensated with a few hundred dollars annually for making their private land available to the public for recreational purposes.

IRAP is federally funded through the NRCS Volunteer Public Access – Habitat Improvement Program (VPA-HIP) grant, and IDNR’s funding runs out in 2018 and is contingent upon the 2019 Farm Bill. (Let’s hope it will continue under the current administration).

Until then – everyone working on developing water trails – check out the details of this fabulous program. Although there are some restrictions – see linked below – perhaps there is a way you can identify potential private land owners who might want to participate in exchange for a few hundred dollars, and also the values this program contains. According to IDNR – landowners also benefit from conservation efforts by removing invasive species, upgrading potential access sites with gravel, and the knowledge that they are introducing more people to the wonders only the natural environment can bring.

For more details – please contact Tammy.Miller@illinois.gov.

IRAP_2_FactSheet_Jan2017

Sangamon River Alliance

By Scott Hays

Last November, several groups and organizations came together with a common interest in the Sangamon River. Over 240 miles in length, the Sangamon courses through several towns including Mahomet, Monticello, Decatur (where a dam on the Sangamon forms Lake Decatur), Springfield, the historic town of Lincoln’s New Salem, and Petersburg before joining the Illinois River at Beardstown. On that day, people from organizations spanning these towns were there.

The initial goal was to meet, talk, network and explore shared interests and opportunities. And out of this meeting, a new organization was formed that we feel could be a model for river stewardship across Illinois and indeed, everywhere: the Sangamon River Alliance (SRA).

Our current draft mission statement explains that this group will be “dedicated to the stewardship of the Sangamon River watershed” and will “promote watershed conservation, education, and recreation.” “Working together, members of the Sangamon River Alliance will amplify the voice and good work of all of the organizations committed to the well-being of the Sangamon River watershed.”

For a river group within the state of Illinois, the SRA is comprised of an impressive diversity of interests and organizations, including: the Friends of the Sangamon Valley, the Upper Sangamon River Conservancy, Heart of the Sangamon Partnership, Lincoln Heritage Water Trail Association, Friends of Lincoln Trail Homestead State Park, Macon County Master Naturalists, Menard County Trails and Greenways, Macon County Soil and Water Conservation District, City of Decatur Water Production, the Agricultural Watershed Institute, the Village of Mahomet, the Illinois Audubon Society, the American Canoe Association, Sierra Club, Prairie Rivers Network, the Illinois Paddling Council, the Illinois State Museum, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and Massie and Massie Associates,  which has helped with rivertrail plan development.

Not merely a paddling group or even a river group, the SRA seeks to take in the entire Sangamon watershed as the territory it covers, including the river, its tributaries and the surrounding landscape. In addition, we welcome expanded membership from any and all other groups, organizations, and agencies that are active throughout our watershed.

Again, quoting from our draft vision statement: “The Sangamon River Alliance creates a network for sharing and broadcasting information about the efforts of every organization that promotes conservation, and encourages educational and recreational opportunities throughout the Sangamon River watershed.”

For now, the group seeks to serve as a forum for coordinating the varied activities among the member groups. Currently there are no plans for the SRA to have a budget, a board of officers, although we are creating our website, which we hope will act as a ‘one-stop shopping’ site for any and all information about happenings, information, events, and stories for everything Sangamon River. Soon, we hope to hold a ‘Sangamon River Fair’ where all of our member groups can come out and meet the public, and visitors can learn more about the Sangamon watershed.

We hope that you will take an interest in our group and in our river in our part of the state. Come visit us and check out our website at sangamonriveralliance.org.

We’d like to leave everyone with this thought from our SRA draft vision statement: “We have an extraordinary capacity to document and analyze ecosystem threats and to conserve and restore habitats, and most importantly, we have a profound responsibility to ensure the vitality of nature for future generations.”

Fox River National River Trail Update

By Greg Taylor

The Core Development Team (CDT) is currently working on developing the final draft of the reporting form that will be used by paddlers to gather the information that will be used to determine the database for the certification. The known entry/exit points and campsites along the river are currently being plotted on a map for a clearer understanding of where gaps are that need to be verified for their attributes, along with the age of the data that might need to be re-verified this summer. The age of some of the existing data might be too old to use and will have to be paddled again for a current condition (aka more than 7-10 years old? and older). Probably not a great loss-who doesn’t like an easy afternoon paddle on an easy flowing, tree-lined avenue?

I will be at CanoeCopia this March – on Saturday and Sunday – with a signup sheet for those who would like to help out with the ground-truthing, paddling information-gathering opportunities of the Initiative. I will be at the Prairie State Paddlers’ table (an excellent organization I might add) when I’m not checking out all the cool new gear and info that the fest has to offer. Anyone think a dew rag with the Fox River as an entry/exit map would be a good souvenir to those who help out? Stop by the table and give me your opinion, I’ll listen.

Thank you: Friends of the Pecatonica

For the great job you have been doing for the last decade and more to make the Pecatonica Illinois’s Friendliest Paddle and more! Please share how you accomplished all with IPC in an article for the next newsletter. We have many rivers in our state that could benefit by having a “Friends of ???? River,” so having your guidance on how you achieved your success would be wonderful.

And – for everyone reading this –  enjoy the FPRF Dec Newsletter.

The Fox River Deserves National Recognition

By Greg Taylor  

So, how many of you have ever paddled on a National River Water Trail? Well, there is a fair chance, if you have lived here in Illinois for a while and paddled different rivers to experience all that the Midwest has to offer. You might have!  The Rock, in north central Illinois, flowing from Wisconsin; The Kankakee, southeast of Chicago; and, part of The Ol’ Man, The Big Muddy, “The Mississippi,” down by St. Louis, are the only ones within 200 miles of Chicago. So, what is a National River Water Trail you ask? Well, if you Google it, it’s all there in color and a wealth of info I’ll leave you to have fun discovering. A quick snap shot is that a “Water Trail is a river or section that meets Federal standards for accessibility and positive human use.” I know that can be a loaded statement these days, heck almost any time in human History, but it’s getting better the more everyone realizes that we all need rivers that are for “positive human use” meaning, everyone agrees to its positive use.

Fox River Ecosystem Partnership, aka “FREP,” is currently moving forward to obtain Federal recognition for the Fox through the National Park Service, which is overseen by the Department of the Interior. The Wisconsin side has been mapped and is in the planning stages already; some of its infrastructure is already in place. Now it’s our turn. I’m assuming many of you have paddled some part of the Fox. If you haven’t, you’re missing a gorgeously calm, relaxing, and picturesque river. And it turns out an ancient river. There are dells on the lower Fox like the ones up in Wisconsin with the Ducks river tours – except you don’t have to pay, as you see them free. Only your desire and sense of adventure are needed. I’m sure there are other attributes that exist on the Fox, and that is why – and what – I am writing about and asking for here. I am the Volunteer Coordinator for ground-truthing the Illinois side of the Water Trail Certification. We are in the process of developing the tools that will be used for data submission. Currently, the options are to submit the data and observations through Google Drive, using smart phones or tablets or printing out a paper copy to submit. This is an easy one for anyone to enjoy and experience. Just enter the river, enjoy the paddle down stream, camping if there are areas that are clearly understood as camping spots, stop for lunch, site-see, whatever you find that you can enjoy or think others might find interesting. The more the better. Exit the river and fill out a short checklist and opinion survey, and you have just become part of a National Water Trail Certification process. That’s it. I’m looking into a token of gratitude item, something like a safety whistle with the water trail insignia on it, or something along those lines. We’ll see what I can push for. Stay tuned.

So that’s it. This is a long time coming. I know Ralph Frese started talking about this back in the mid-sixties for basically the same reasons and more than that we are working towards now. One step at a time, and this will come to fruition. Stay tuned, this should be a fun one.

Dam Removal on the Lower Des Plaines – A History

By Don Mueggenborg

Lower Des Plaines

Thinking about Wally (story on my bucket list) brought back some memories.

The Des Plaines is – or is on its way – to being dam free. Story about the removal of the first two dams on the lower Des Plaines.

Dam in Lemont. I have seen pictures of people paddling and swimming above a dam in Lemont. Just before WW II, they wanted to put a pipeline across the river someplace above the dam. There were objections and an injunction was issued, but could not be served on a Sunday. The dam was removed with the idea that it would be rebuilt by the WPA or CCC (depression-era government employment programs).

However, the timing was bad. WW II started, WPA and CCC were ended, and the dam never was rebuilt.

Dam in Lockport. Two men drowned while paddling downstream of 135th Street. They were found below the dam in Lockport. The dam was owned by Material Service and, of course, a lawsuit was filed.

Enter Wally and his friends. They were in the area, coming up to paddle from the Peoria area. When they got to the dam, they were stopped by a security guard and sheriff’s police and told to paddle back upstream. If they got out of their canoes, they would be trespassing. Finally they were escorted off the property.

Wally called Ralph Frese who asked me to paddle with him and some lawyers to look over the site.

The lawyers asked if I would be an expert witness and would I say that they drowned going over the unmarked dam. When I said “probably” drowned going over the dam, they did not call me.

Later I met with people from Material Service who said they would remove the dam when the lawsuit was dropped.   They cleared a place to portage the dam more easily after the meeting.

Eventually the lawsuit was dropped and the dam removed. However, the easy takeout below the dam was suddenly off limits, as the Sanitary district put up “no parking” signs.

The effect of the dam removal. Faster water upstream and more water below the dam at “fishnet rapids.” It made it a better place to paddle, but the “no parking” signs made it a longer trip. Takeout at Lockport Prairie Forest Preserve or in Joliet.

Illinois’s Friendliest Paddle: Pecatonica River

By Don Mueggenborg

I just took a trip on the most crooked river in Illinois.   I hardly believed the bends and switchbacks.

This is November, I really didn’t paddle the river, I checked out the map on the internet.

Over the years, I have paddled and raced the Pec – I think I paddled all of it from the state line, through Freeport to the city of Pecatonica, to the Two Rivers landing.   Not at one time, but in stretches.

What do you find on the Pec?

First of all, you can see the work of a dedicated group of people who have built some pretty good canoe landings. Bobtown Landing and Damascus Landing, to name a couple.

Not too many years ago, one of the paddlers from the area ran into a problem with rules and regulations. You had to get permission ahead of time to use the park boat landing.  When he tried to take out after paddling, he found out about the law.  He and his friends decided to change things.

They asked for IPC input to convince the local authorities that this was not a good thing. (They also served on the IPC board)

Then they went ahead and started improving the landing sites on the river. They have been successful beyond their dreams.

They hold an annual race on the Pec also.

Second, you find a peaceful winding river. Not many road crossings, not many buildings, just miles of stream to paddle and enjoy.  Of course there is the wildlife – birds, deer.

Just the place for a get-away.

Use your maps, and you can paddle downstream and bike back to your vehicle over a trail or country roads.

If you encounter locals, they will be friendly.

Illinois’s Friendliest Paddle (video): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_GqfjnQk-U4

 

  • Trip #1 – 6.2 miles – Brewster Landing to McConnell Bobtown Landing
  • Trip #2 – 7.9 miles – McConnell Bobtown Landing to McNeil’s Damascus Landing
  • Trip #3 – 8 miles – McNeil’s Damascus Landing to Wes Block Trail Head
  • Trip #4 – 6.2 miles – Wes Block Trail Head to Tutty’s Crossing in Freeport
  • Trip #5 – 1/2 mile or 3 mile – Tutty’s Crossing to Hancock Ave Boat Ramp or VFW
  • Trip #6 – 16 miles – Hancock Ave Boat Ramp to Ridott Fishing Park
  • Trip #7 – 7 miles – Ridott Fishing Park to Atten’s Landing
  • Trip #8 – 7 miles – Atten’s Landing to Pecatonica Village Park

 

Calling / Requesting / Soliciting All Paddlesport Event Organizers

With this year’s paddling season drawing to a close – except for some die-hard paddlers that love breaking ice – it is time to think about next year.

IPC has an events calendar where we list all paddlesports-related events we become aware of. This also helps in promoting your event(s).

If you are a paddlesport event organizer, or know someone who is – whether a competition/race, a river cleanup, a paddling festival or any other event involving paddlesport – canoe/kayak/SUP/raft- on a river, lake,  bayou (ok – we may not have some here in Illinois) – please forward such information to

news@illinoispaddling.org – or to spconsult@comcast.net

We would like to compile a master list for next year’s events to publish in upcoming newsletters with details (so include background on – and details of – the event). Hopefully, we can also avoid having major events take place on the same weekend.

If you have any questions, please forward these to spconsult@comcast.net

Thank you – Sigrid Pilgrim, Director, PR & Marketing

Great Rivers of Chicago Roundtable Discussion

In early September of this year, advance word was distributed to a myriad of Chicago area organizations of a pending presentation of interest to those concerned with the future of Chicago’s three river systems: the Chicago River, the Calumet River, and the Des Plaines River. This presentation in late September was in effect a report of studies and discussions over recent years coordinated by the Chicago’s Metropolitan Planning Council and directed towards enhancing multiple uses of these urban waterways. In attendance at this Roundtable Discussion were around one hundred representatives from public and private organizations, including “yours truly” from the Illinois Paddling Council. While I doubt that heretofore many, if any, IPC members were aware of this developing study and planning effort, I am glad to report on what I have learned about the intended future of our “Great Rivers.”

Study objectives over the next 25 years include development of enhanced recreational use of these rivers and their adjoining shorelines, including paddlesport and even swimming. Indeed, there are some individuals now swimming in sections of these rivers, including some of the planning study leadership. In some other cities which now include radiation in the treatment of their wastewater, river swimming is even more commonplace.

However, enhanced and varied recreational opportunity is not the only objective of the planning effort. Some sections of all three of these rivers will provide for transportation of both people and enhanced barge traffic. Still other sections will evolve into increased residential, industrial, park land, commercial usage or in some cases, remain as forested riverfront for both human recreation and colonization by wildlife. The Metropolitan Planning Council is hoping now to expand and organize further the development of these riverfront resources.

Unaware in the 1970s and 80s that formal governmental interest was developing in the retention of a portion of this forested riverfront, some of the paddlesport community nevertheless became involved in the Cook County Clean Streams Committee. This group consisted of both river preservationists and government representatives who met monthly at Forest Preserve Headquarters to alert one another to sources of stream pollution and the accumulation of natural and man-made debris and to seek resolution of these intrusions on what few examples of “municipal wilderness” remained.

More recently, Don Mueggenborg and I have appeared at several meetings of the Forest Preserves of Cook County Board (aka the Cook County Board) to present requests on behalf of the IPC and the Des Plaines Marathon for removal of lingering low rise dams and the enactment of other measures to enhance use by the paddlesport community. Friends of the Chicago River has been a vigorous member of the Metropolitan Planning Commission and has very effectively engaged the public in river involvement and advocacy, as has the Chicago Harbor Safety Committee.

What Next? We all need to watch for word of further activity by the Metropolitan Planning Commission and offer whatever opinions and input we can muster! This planning effort is not solely an attempt to convert the 150 plus miles of the Chicago, Des Plaines, and Calumet Rivers within Chicago to the equivalent of wild and scenic rivers. Rather, it is an effort to work together to coordinate the planning and enactment of associated residential, industrial, transportation, and recreational uses along those many miles of riverfront.

And so, with all of this river-related Chicago planning underway on many fronts, what new projects were announced at the Roundtable for which public or private interests are actively moving ahead? Well, for the moment, none that I could tell. However, one idea expressed that seemed relatively possible to a non-planner like me was the establishment of barge-based floating cafes or theaters to attract more people to more sections of rivers than provided by current tour boats and canoe/kayak rental and launching sites. The potential interest of more people with more money and more imagination being exposed to a river does increase the likelihood of outcomes consistent with this planning.

Meanwhile, Lake County Forest Preserve has removed the two remaining low-rise dams on its Des Plaines River, rendering the DP River Canoe and Kayak Marathon dam-free for the first time in its 60-year-history.

We can certainly be grateful for the participation in this discussion of Josh Ellis, a Director of the Metropolitan Planning Council and leader of the Roundtable Discussion, and the four discussion panelists: Kim Wasserman-Nieto of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, John Quail – Director of Watershed Planning for Friends of the Chicago River, Arnold Randall – Superintendent of the Forest Preserves of Cook County, and David Reifman – Commissioner for the Chicago Department of Planning and Development.

…. Jack Snarr

Congratulations To The Friends Of The Pecatonica Foundation

For Winning the American Canoe Association’s Green Paddle for Waterway Conservation Award

green paddle

There once was a creek in Freeport

Yellow was its name

And paddlers needed to report

When launching a canoe in the same

A written permit was needed

To put in a river just knee deep

So for help they came asking

And dozens of letters were tasking

The City Officials for permits

When one of them finally said “That’s it –

no more written requests to go paddling.”

And even a launch site was opened.

Which was more than the paddlers had hopened!  (it had to rhyme)

And the rest is history!

This was the beginning of the involvement of Joe Ginger, Lee Butler, Roger Schamberger, and the many friends who eventually formed www.paddlethepec.com  and the Friends of the Pecatonica Foundation (http://pecriver.org/) to help restore, appreciate and celebrate, a nearby river – the Pecatonica.

Their efforts over the past decade are deservedly recognized by the American Canoe Association with their Green Paddle for Waterway Conservation Award.

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL OF THE FRIENDS OF THE PECATONICA FOUNDATION

Check out the Friendliest Paddle in Illinois here, and join the Friends on one of the many trips they offer.