The canal, having officially
closed in 1933 had already been overcome by severe deterioration of the canal
banks, locks, aqueducts and the locktender houses. The 1870 constitution of the
State of Illinois prevented the use of any State funds to maintain the canal or
its environs. It seemed as though the future of the canal would be doomed to that
of a pestilent ditch.
The idea of canal rehabilitation began in the early 1900's. One idea suggested, was to fill the unused section of canal between Chicago and Lockport and construct a road in its place. It was also suggested that other sections of the canal be cleaned up and restored for recreational use. It wasn't until the 1930's that reality of these ideas would come to pass.
In 1933, the Civilian Conservation Corps
(C.C.C) was formed to provide work and training for unemployed young men during
the heart of the depression. This New Deal program was developed to enhance
and conserve the nations natural resources. Illinois Governor Henry Horner requested
that the Department of the Interior locate five of its C.C.C. camps along the
canal and work towards developing it into a recreational parkway.
During the 1930's the C.C.C. accomplished many projects along the canal. They cleared unmanageable brush from along the canal banks and restored the towpath from Joliet to LaSalle. They built several shelters, restrooms and comfort stations along the towpath and within many State Parks such as Starved Rock, Buffalo Rock, Illini, Gebhard Woods, McKinley Woods and Channahon State Park. New trails were also cleared and developed within these parks along with some fishing ponds and boat launch areas. Several of the Locks and Lock gates were restored as well as the existing Locktenders house at Lock #6. Aqueducts were repaired and the Nettle Creek Aqueduct that was in a state of tragic deterioration, was rebuilt.
Numerous other projects were completed by the C.C.C. before they were disbanded by Congress in 1942. These young men, stationed in camps along the canal worked for $25.00 a month, twenty of which was sent home to their families. Several of the structures built by the C.C.C. still stand today in many of the State Parks along the canal.
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