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Canal committee compiling projects list

City, IDNR ready to negotiate land lease agreement

ROCK FALLS – The stage has been set for the city’s annexation of 2.2 miles of Hennepin Canal property, and the newly-formed Hennepin Canal-Trails Committee is charting its future.

The city council on Feb. 18 authorized City Administrator Robbin Blackert to begin talks with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources on terms of a lease agreement for the property. The land, which runs from the Arduini boat ramp to the state Route 40 bridge outside the city, is not city property; it belongs to the IDNR.

The lease agreement must be finished before the city proceeds with annexation. The agreement would include the division of maintenance responsibilities between the city and the IDNR and spell out the cost to the city. The annexation agreement would be drawn up in ordinance fashion and voted on by the full council after a public hearing was held.

The committee, chaired by Alderman Jim Schuneman, had its first meeting Feb 13. It was formed to bring together people who were working on sometimes overlapping recreational projects, particularly involving the canal and trails.

The committee met Thursday to get the ball rolling on ideas for the river, canal and railroad bed trails.

“While we’re concentrating on the canal and annexation, we should also focus on these three trails and throw out some ideas for projects,” Schuneman said.

Committee member and former Mayor David Blanton suggested the committee make a project list and prioritize the entries.

Work on the trail along the railroad bed, which extends to Route 30, would be a good place to start, but would likely be held up after it reached McNeil Road, Schuneman said.

“There’s a hard surface to McNeil, and then sidewalk to East Coloma,” Schuneman said. “We could put an end-of-trail sign up, and the rest could be done down the road.”

Coordinating signage through the trail system should be a priority, Committeeman Brian Tribley said. At some places the trails just stop, creating confusion for walkers and bikers.

John Larson said he would like to see the big picture before putting too much time into specific projects.

“I’d like to see the plan as a whole before we start anything.” Larson said. “We need a new map that is divided into sections.”

It was suggested that the sections could be used to coordinate volunteer projects and could include kiosks with historical information for each area.

Tribley suggested more picnic tables, which could be placed in areas with the best parking access, such as Dixon Avenue, Days Inn and East Second Street.

“We have lots of benches,” Tribley said. “But we should pick some spots where we can clean out brush, pour concrete and add some tables.”

Some needed bridge work and ramp building also was discussed. Some signage has disappeared, decking needs to be replaced, and painting should be done.

The committee on Thursday appointed Tribley to be volunteer coordinator for the canal and trails projects. Tribley is already putting together volunteer teams for similar projects in the same areas.

Members will begin work on a five-year plan when the committee next meets, at noon April 10 in council chambers.

Next meeting

The Rock Falls Hennepin Canal-Trails Committee next meets at noon April 10 in council chambers at City Hall, 603 W. 10th St.

Agendas will be posted at and at City Hall. Call 815-622-1100 for more information.

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