The Canal Corridor Association (CCA) began the process of creating a ten-year plan in 2008. Documents were collected from the former Illinois & Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor Federal Commission to determine potential relevance to forming the new plan. The staff reviewed other heritage area plans and worked to define best practices to incorporate them into the plan as it was being developed. Additional research was conducted and documents were collected from other organizations, which had participated in the national heritage corridor efforts in the past. Informal discussions were held with stakeholders and elected officials throughout the Heritage Area, in Chicago, and in Springfield, the state capitol. Throughout this period many presentations were given to groups interested in the status and future of the national heritage corridor.
CCA also held four rounds of public workshops throughout the Illinois & Michigan Canal National Heritage Area (IMCNHA) between November 2009 and February 2011. The thirteen (13) workshops engaged the public, collected information, and facilitated the development of this roadmap. The data collected from these workshops proved critical in shaping the plan.
As part of the organizational process of the plan development, six resource committees were formed and all stakeholders were invited to participate. The committees worked through the winter and spring of 2010 to develop goals and activities for the IMCNHA in the following six areas:
- Conservation/Natural Resources
- Heritage Development
- Tourism/Economic Development
A steering committee was also formed with the purpose of providing direction and/or approval of the Illinois & Michigan Canal National Heritage Area’s comprehensive management plan. The steering committee was a diverse group of fourteen individuals from across the Illinois & Michigan Canal National Heritage Area with a varied knowledge base and skill set. It included the chairman of each resource committee, three CCA board members, the CCA president and four “at-large members.
The management plan was written collaboratively utilizing the abilities of steering committee members, staff, and contracted consultants. The drafts were reviewed and approved by the steering committee, staff, the Canal Corridor Association Board of Directors, and finally, the National Park Service.
On December 29, 2011 the National Park Service approved the Illinois & Michigan Canal National Heritage Area’s management plan, A Roadmap for the Future. Beginning in 2012 the Alliance Committee in coordination with the Canal Corridor Association began implementing the plan. Each year the Alliance Committee selects which projects and programs will be implemented or continued to achieve the goals of the IMCNHA.