Sunday, August 24, 2014

On this day in 1984: Reagan signs bill creating Illinois & Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor

Illinois & Michigan Canal, Lemont, IL
Thirty years ago today the only president born in Illinois, Ronald Reagan, signed the bill that created the Illinois & Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor. It was our first National Heritage Area.

The I&M, which Abraham Lincoln as a strong proponent of, connected the South Branch of Chicago River on Chicago's South Side with the Illinois River at Peru, creating a waterway that connected the Great Lakes with the Mississippi River basin. Had the canal not been built, Chicago would not have become the transportation hub of America.

The National Heritage Corridor was given little chance of success, because its area was so narrow yet widespread and the federal government would not be administering it. Of course that is why it succeeded. Local governments and volunteers filled in the void.

The Illinois & Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor was indeed a Reagan-esque endeavor. And there are now nearly 50 National Heritage Areas.

As for "Dutch," he learned how to swim in the Hennepin Feeder Canal near Tampico, where he was born in 1911.
Near Utica, IL

This afternoon in Utica, a canal town, visitors can sit at the desk where Reagan signed the National Heritage Corridor legislation.

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