About Us: The Canal Corridor Association
The canal’s importance to both the region’s and the nation’s history was first officially recognized in 1964 when it was designated a National Historic Landmark. In 1975, after the State of Illinois created the I&M Canal State Trail along the original towpath, a coalition formed to look beyond those initial designations. Seeking to protect the canal’s remnants and highlight its enormous impact on the towns created as ports along the way and on the natural streams manipulated to provide its water, the coalition began its work.
The result of their efforts was the I&M Canal National Heritage Area, America’s first National Heritage Area. Created in 1984, it is not a national park managed by the federal government, but an affiliated unit of the National Park System. With this new status, the attention of federal, state and local governments, other organizations and groups became focused on the preservation, interpretation and economic survival of the I&M Canal Corridor. The work of all of these partners is coordinated by the Canal Corridor Association, a 501(c)3 non profit, that preserves history, protects nature and open space, and creates destinations where people can learn and have fun in the I&M Canal National Heritage Area from Chicago to LaSalle-Peru.
This partnership model became so compelling to people around the country striving to preserve the unique background and culture of their regions that other National Heritage Areas were soon created. Today there are now 49 such areas throughout the continental United States, reshaping our nation’s public-private efforts to preserve and conserve historic, natural and cultural resources.