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Emiquon Preserve: A Milestone in the Making

FULTON CO--A milestone is unfolding in Fulton County.
FULTON CO--A milestone is unfolding in Fulton County.

The Emiquon Preserve project formally opens today after years of anticipation.
And it's already making some big promises 

"It may be hard to imagine, but all of this land was farmland. Now, it's opened up into a whole new world of opportunity.

Lewistown Mayor John King says "Everybody watched it as it started to flood a bit and it started to graduate fill up and whammo, there's a lake."

In 2007, the Nature Conservancy turned off the pumps that had drained Emiquon for decades.
Now, the preserve along the Illinois River is one of the largest restoration projects in America.

Leslee Spraggins is State Director for the Nature Conservancy, she says ,"Because the whole world has basically levied its rivers, the rivers no longer naturally connect to their flood plains."

Flood plains like the Emiquon are crucial to both nature and people, alleviating flooding and serving as lifeline to wildlife.
The hope is to eventually re-connect this to the Illinois River.
This massive project has even manifested into a map for similar projects around the world.

"How fast, what the consequences are. We're gonna manage it, but if more places could open up and allow the flood plain to re-connect, it would help in a lot of ways," says Spraggins.

Supporters say it will also help the local economy through tourism.

"We've come here for many years, for weekend getaways," says tourist Karen Kordela

When those people come, they'll need things like lodging and food.
Leaders are hopeful it'll all lead to more jobs.

"To a town like Lewistown, 8 or 9 more small jobs, it just rotates and it makes a big big big difference," adds King.

And it's a landscape like this that officials are hoping will draw tens, maybe even hundreds or thousands of people to the area."

The Emiquon preserve is located just off of Illinois Route 24 South, outside of Lewistown.

You can boat, fish, hunt, or hike at the preserve.
It's free and open to the public.
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