By Tom Lindblade
President Illinois Paddling Council
Courage, politics, and creativity are three terms we have not heard in the same sentence much recently, nor have we seen much government/corporate cooperation for the public good, but both are factors in a little-known controversy that is quietly about to be resolved near Starved Rock State Park.
Two years ago, after a couple of deaths resulting from a mixture of inexperience and alcohol, the Vermilion, the most well-known whitewater river in the state, was closed to the public by Buzzi Unicem, the Italian cement company that owns the former Lonestar cement plant property along the river. Buzzi did not want any further exposure to lawsuits and, in Illinois, they were fully within their rights to attempt to protect themselves by closing the river.
As the result of some creative thinking by Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Director Marc Miller, the DNR recently leased the river from Buzzi, has done much to make it more safe, and plans on reopening it to the public this spring.
Courage is being shown by Buzzi in taking the risk to try something that has never been done before, and by politicians like Gov. Pat Quinn, who appointed and has supported Miller, and State Representative Mautino who has supported the lease in the legislature.
The winner is us, the general public, who will have access to the Vermilion once again.
From the Feb. 22-28, 2012, issue