The Canal Corridor Association

The Canal Corridor Association (CCA) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization designated by Congress to coordinate partnerships and activities in pursuit of our mission to enhance and promote the cultural, natural, recreational and economic resources of the I&M Canal National Heritage Area.

Our organization is part of a National Heritage Area System within the National Park Service that uses a public-private partnership model in which local non-government coordinating entities collaborate with government agencies. As the local entity, the CCA takes the lead in determining how to best promote the area’s heritage and stories relevant to local interests and needs as well as to visitors from across the country and globe.

It’s important to note that, within this system, we receive some funding from the government. Some. All federal funds must be matched dollar-for-dollar on the local level. So, if we don’t match, we don’t receive the funds. That’s why donations and revenue streams are crucial to our organization and programs like the mule-powered, 1840s-replica canal boat tours, bike share program, I&M Canal Jr. Ranger Days and lectures, events and activities throughout the year. 

If you believe in our mission to preserve and promote the region’s natural resources and stories, please consider donating, becoming a sponsor or joining our Canal Alliance.

History of the CCA

What we now know as the Canal Corridor Association was founded by a group of business leaders in 1981 as the Upper Illinois Valley Association (UIVA). In their efforts to advocate for the creation of the I&M Canal National Heritage Area, the association was building upon the work done by the Openlands Project, its first director Gunnar Peterson, the Illinois Institute of Natural Resources, Lockport native Jerry Adelmann, Chicago Tribune journalist John Husar and more.

The involvement of so many business leaders drew attention to this new idea of a National Heritage Area and momentum grew throughout 1981 with prominent positive coverage in The Wall Street Journal and Chicago Sun-Times.

That year, a delegation from the UIVA traveled to Washington D.C. and met with Illinois Republican Senator Charles Percy. In October they received Secretary of the Interior James Watt’s approval of the heritage corridor, calling the plan “important, daring, and precedent setting.”

The UIVA, working with stakeholders throughout the Corridor, took the lead role in pushing for federal designation of the Heritage Area, and after concerted lobbying, Congress passed legislation authorizing the establishment of the I&M Canal National Heritage Area. President Ronald Reagan signed the bill establishing this National Heritage Area, the first of its kind, on August 24, 1984. 

Having successfully established the I&MCNHA, it would have seemed that the work of the UIVA was over. After all, the I&M National Heritage Area Act established the I&M Canal National Heritage Corridor Commission to manage the National Heritage Area. But, the UIVA, changing its name to the Canal Corridor Association, stayed active. In 2006, Congress designated the CCA as the new coordinating entity, a role it has held ever since.

CCA members in 2006 (left to right) then Vice President Emily Harris and then President Jerry Adelmann with Photographer & Author Edward Ranney, Reenactor Bernard Mixon as Jean Baptiste Point du Sable and Executive Director Ana Koval, now President of the CCA.