The Vermillion River in northern Illinois offers a regionally rare whitewater treat of sufficient quality to support commercial rafting. Last year, the owner of the Buzzi Unicem cement plant near the river made a bold, and thus far successful attempt to close the river to paddling. It is unclear exactly why the corporation would try to close the popular river, but some hypothesized that it may be an attempt to trade public stream access permission for rights to quarry 30 acres of a nearby state park.
Local tourism agency officials and political representatives are actively seeking a diplomatic solution, including the legislature formally declaring the river navigable or the state assuming any potential liability associated with recreational use. It is highly questionable that Buzzi Unicem has the right to close the river at all, but regardless there are clearly many options for resolving this issue before the spring boating season really kicks off.
If you are an Illinois paddler you should contact your state political representatives right away and ask them to get involved with this issue on your behalf. According to one newspaper article, Representative Frank Mautino is taking a leadership role in resolving this important issue, as is Oglesby Mayor Tony Torres.
American Whitewater staff will closely follow this issue and offer support when possible. Our assessment is that the issue can and should be resolved through a state or local political action. You may find and contact your state representative on this website.