THE ISSUE: Halfway to the $200,000 goal
OUR VIEW: Donations critical to cover costs
In Ottawa, any sign of rising water typically is a matter of concern.
But Wednesday it was a matter of appreciation and encouragement.
The rising water was the graphic on the two signs near the toll collector’s house between La Salle and Columbus streets that mark the progress of donations for the rewatering of a section of the Illinois and Michigan Canal.
A group of donors and officials stood on the canal tow path alongside the replica canal boat in honor of the donation drive reaching the halfway mark of $100,000.
“It’s not very often that I ask businesses and individuals to contribute toward a capital project: That’s what government is supposed to do,” said Mayor Bob Eschbach. “But in order to make this happen I needed the help of the private sector here.”
The last such project was the Lincoln and Douglas statues in Washington Square to boost downtown renovation.
Eschbach said the canal rewatering project may have a similar impact.
“It’s a really important project,” he said. “A canal without water doesn’t make much sense.”
The project, talked about for more than a decade, is to rewater the 2,900 feet of the canal from Guion Street to the Illinois Railway tracks — a block east of Chestnut Street. It is scheduled to begin this summer. Initial work on cleaning and contouring the dry canal by U.S. Army and U.S. Marines reserve units is to start in July. The city plans to put water in the canal from a shallow well to be dug near Fulton Street, which will provide a constant source of fresh water.
However, the City Council’s commitment of $600,000 toward the rewatering came with the pledge that $200,000 would be raised in donations.
Within a month there was $55,000 in donations, including the first of five $10,000 donations.
Eschbach said he was heartened by that first $10,000 check. It was from Mitsubishi Belting Ltd., a manufacturer of automotive timing belts at its plant on the city’s North Side. One $10,000 donor chose to be anonymous. The others were:
- The Ottawa Dental Laboratory, a family business since 1937;
- The Ottawa Savings Bank, which began operations in 1871; and
- The First State Bank, which borders the canal on the south and was among the first supporters of the nonprofit Ottawa Canal Association.
Eschbach said most of the rest of the donors gave $5,000 or less. They were not identified, except for one couple by first names only.
OCA President Arnie Bandstra asked the donors to get contributions from their friends of at least $1,000.
“If we had 100 people give $1,000 we’d be there,” Bandstra said. “That’s all we need to do is find those 100 people and get the final $100,000.”
“Or have one give $100,000,” Eschbach suggested.
Or, we would suggest, appeal to anybody who will give any amount.
Contributions can be made at gofundme.com under “ottawa canal” or by check made out to the Ottawa Canal Association and sent to the OCA at P.O. Box 2194, Ottawa, IL 61350.