Dear Friends of the Hennepin Canal,
As we celebrate this holiday season, we wish you and yours peace and good will.
As with much of the world, the COVID Pandemic has taken a toll on our organization. Some of our members were infected by the virus, the rest of us were occupied with adjusting to lockdown. School at home, quarantining, maintaining business, working at home, job loss, home disruptions, and so much more. This situation greatly reduced our activities. For example, the Board of Directors met only a few times during all of 2020 and 2021.
However, we are up and running again. And we’re pleased to report that our efforts have paid off with several developments.
Since our beginning in 1998, you know that our efforts have focused on the canal’s infrastructure. Back in the 90’s Supt. Moser told us that his major concern for our canal is its “hydrological integrity.” Supt. Moser knew that if there was a break in the canal’s fragile infrastructure, we would simply lose the water and it would become a dry greenway, at best. Nearly all the Friend’s efforts have focused on the reality that a major breach of a levee, or a sluice gate or lock gate at the headwaters of the canal, would lead to a disastrous loss of the canal as we know it.
Over the years, we have quietly and steadily worked with IDNR and State Legislators, attempting to provide structural improvements and adequate staff that are necessary to maintain a 104-mile waterway. Fortunately, not all our efforts have been in vain.
During the Spring and Summer of 2020, the Friends was informed by then District 47 State Senator Chuck Weaver of an opportunity for a $500,000 “NOFO” State grant for structural maintenance of the canal, and that the Friends were to be players in determining how the grant was to be used. With our input, a DNR regional officer made application for the grant, specifically, as we insisted, for repair of the Guard Lock system. The application was approved. Sadly, at the same time, COVID hit, and priorities changed. The money wasn’t appropriated. But authorities tell us that these budget obligations carry over from one year to the next, so the Friends continue to monitor this issue with the expectation that the obligation will be met. A half million extra dollars will go a long way in restoring the Guard Lock.
A similar scenario applies to a $30,000 Capital Improvement grant for lighting at the Visitor Center. The obligation remains. Without Friends of the canal watching, these obligations could be forgotten.
As a Canal Friend, you know that for more than 20 years, thanks to one of our founding members, Ed Herrmann, monthly hikes have been conducted along the entire length of the canal. From a cold February “eagle watch” where the canal flows into the Mississippi to a Spring hike among the bluffs of Bureau Creek where canal waters flow into the Illinois River, to an October Fall color hike near where the Rock River flows into the canal, and all months and miles between, a hardy group of hikers have picked up rubbish, cleared debris and enjoyed the beauty of the canal. Ed invites you to join. Watch the newspapers or check our website for announcements, bundle up, bring a garbage bag or camera, and become a Hennepin Hiker.
We are aware of a new group, mainly organized through social media, that is planning to promote the canal. We welcome all efforts to keep and maintain our canal and, therefore, wish the new organization well.
Finally, as we thank you for your many years of loyal membership, keep in mind the Friends of the Hennepin Canal, established in 1998 and still very much alive, as part of your tax-deductible year-end giving. The year 2022 has some important projects in the works.
Officers and Board of the Friends of the Hennepin Canal
Gary Wagle, President
Ron Horton, Vice President
Ed Herrmann, Treasurer
Patrick Herrmann, Secretary
Matt Gehrke, member
Christa Gehrke, member
Merle (Duke) Mueller, member
Todd Sieben, member
Andrew Sigwalt, member