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McHenry County agencies awarded for Kishwaukee River project

County teamed up with Openlands, Boone County on public canoe launch

A multijurisdictional collaboration on a Kishwaukee River project has garnered statewide praise.

The Illinois Association of Park Districts presented its Intergovernmental Cooperation Award on Oct. 13 to the Boone County Conservation District, Openlands, the McHenry County Conservation District and the McHenry County Division of Transportation for the Kishwaukee River Canoe Launch during its “Best of the Best” awards celebration.

The four agencies worked together to install the Kishwaukee River Canoe Launch at East County Line Conservation Area in Boone County.

For decades, the Boone/McHenry County Line Road was a “gorilla” access point for the Kishwaukee River since paddling became popular in the 1960s and ’70s, according to a joint news release from all four agencies.

“Gorilla” access refers to roadside parking adjacent to a river, bushwhacking through brush and typically trespassing (although tolerated because of years of use) to the river.

The location became popular because it is the uppermost spot on the North Branch of the Kishwaukee River that sustains enough water to paddle all summer and is generally free of downed trees.

To make the canoe launch a reality, the MCCD established the County Line Road Conservation Area with a parking lot in 2007 to allow public access to the river.

However, because of wetland constraints, the district was unable to install a launch on the McHenry side of the road.

BCCD worked with Openlands to buy private property on the west side of the road, thus opening the door to establishing the launch in a better location.

Then, Openlands secured a grant from the Grand Victoria Foundation to fund the purchase of a conservation easement on the 89-acre privately owned property – from willing sellers – on the Boone County side.

The rest is history.

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