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Moving up the river

Published: Monday, Jan. 21, 2013 3:19 p.m. CST • Updated: Monday, Jan. 21, 2013 4:40 p.m. CST

OTTAWA — The headquarters for the Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway has moved to Ottawa.

On Thursday, the move from its former Peoria location to the North Central Illinois Council of Governments (NCICG) office in Ottawa was celebrated with an open house.

The move is part of NCICG’s ongoing effort to support community and economic growth throughout the region. The Byway links more than 100 nature sites that provide recreational and educational opportunities to visitors while showcasing and preserving their natural, archaeological and historical significance.

“The Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway focuses on and highlights what we love about living and working in this area,” said Nora Fesco, NCICG executive director. “Local elected officials, economic development professionals, businesses, tourism organizations, and community development practitioners promote the beauty and splendor that surrounds us. The Byway will help NCICG directly support, enhance and interpret those qualities. We are honored to have this opportunity.”

The Illinois River Road was designated a National Scenic Byway in 2005 by the Federal Highway Administration, which recognizes roads having outstanding archaeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational and scenic qualities. The Byway covers 10 counties and enters Bureau County on Route 6, just north of St. Bede Academy. It runs through Spring Valley and switches onto Route 29, moving through the communities of DePue and Bureau. Princeton is included as a gateway community, with a spur that connects at Interstate 180 to the Illinois River Road route.

Anaise Berry will remain the Byway’s executive director. The program will continue its current responsibilities of marketing the byway corridor which encompasses 10 counties and covers an area stretching from Starved Rock State Park near Ottawa, southward to Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge near Havana.

Berry said communities served by the Byway will not be affected by the change.

“This is a positive change that will allow us to forge additional new partnerships while maintaining and strengthening current ones in Peoria and throughout the Byway region,” she said. “Our portal and gateway communities will continue to receive the same representation they always have, and we hope they will continue to support the Byway, financially and otherwise.”

Terry Madsen, chairman of the Governance Committee and a member of the Executive Committee of the Illinois River Road, said the new partnership between the Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway and the NCICG is going to be a win-win for those organizations and also a win for the many communities up and down the Byway.

“The Heartland Foundation was a supportive home for the Byway in its early years, and this move allows the Byway to continue on pace with a strong and forward-thinking partner, while the economic development agencies in Peoria sort out their new missions and development philosophy,” he said.

Madsen said the transition was smooth and virtually seamless thanks to Byway staff and the leadership at Heartland and at NCICG. It allows the Byway to go forward with its initiatives without missing a beat.

“I suspect that, if not for the public announcement today, no one would have had any idea that anything had changed at the Byway,” he said.

Debb Ladgenski, Spring Valley Economic Development Director and a board member for the Byway’s commission, said she was very pleased with the new partnership with NCICG.

“This transition will allow the Byway to continue its mission under the same leadership and representation from throughout the 10-county region, yet enhanced by the knowledge and expertise of the NCICG staff,” she said. “The Byway has a successful history, and I see our future efforts furthering the recreational experiences and economic development of our area.”

Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.

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