The president of the Canal Corridor Association announced Thursday that a dream is to build a boat that will accurately depict canal boats of the 1840s is beoming a reality. Plans for a visitor center also were announced.
Gathered in a 92-year-old building that once housed a horse buggy maker’s business, officials announced Thursday construction is set to begin on a full-size replica 19th century canal boat.
Ana Koval, Canal Corridor Association president and CEO, welcomed visitors and Canal Corridor board members who came to hear the news.
"I am so excited to announce that a 30-year-old dream is becoming reality,"Koval said. "We are finally going to see a canal boat return to the waters of the I&M Canal. Many people never thought it was going to happen, but we are on the way."
Koval announce that with approval by the Illinois Department of Transportation, Canal Corridor Association signed a $993,840 construction contract with Scarano Boat Building Inc. of Albany, N.Y.
The boat builder is contracted to build a 76 foot by 15 foot boat that will accurately depict the canal boats that traveled the canal in 1848.
In the spring of 2008, guests will be able to board the boat in LaSalle for a one-hour trip, Koval said.
The boat will be led by two horses, and the horse tender will be dressed in period clothes. The riders will meet up with other charters from that era, boat captains, crews and guests, who will tell their stories of the canal.
Koval also unveiled plans for a visitor center in LaSalle, called the Lock 16 Visitor Center. The facility will be part of the LaSalle Canal Boat attraction, providing ticket sales and vistor services.
"The Lock 16 Visitor Center and LaSalle Canal Boat will be a gateway to the national heritage area." said Canal Corridor Association Chairman Andy Conner.
Conner said the association leased more than 5,000 square feet for the visitor center at 754 Fifth St. in LaSalle.
Funding for the LaSalle Canal Boat and Lock 16 Visitors Center came from a combination of state and federal money, private foundation grants and donations.
An open house will be from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the future site of the Lock 16 Visitor Center.
Koval is predicting construction on both the visitor center and the canal boat will be complete in seven months.
"If you don’t feel it now, you will feel it soon," said Koval, "The excitement is in the air ... Before you know it, spring will be here as will horse-pulled boat rides on the I&M Canal."
Reach Journal Star reporer Ann Weeks at (309) 686-3041 or email@example.com.