‘This simply is not the place’: Chillicothe residents push back against proposed barge fleeting operation

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CHILLICOTHE, Ill. (WMBD) — Some Chillicothe residents are pushing back against a private project they say will destroy the natural beauty of the area.

The proposal, submitted by nearby marina owner Richard Hamm to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, indicates the construction of a half-mile long, 32-space barge fleeting and mooring area along the city’s riverfront. It would be built on an island owned by Hamm, facing a boat launch and a newly built eagle viewing platform.

Mike Krost, spokesperson for the newly-formed Save Our Riverfront group, said the public was never informed about the proposal. He said he reached to the Army Corp and got an extension to November 26, urging the public to submit their concerns.

“That is not acceptable to this community. We have a beautiful park that people come to, and they expect when they look over there to see the eagles in the trees, pelicans in the water, egrets in the water, to see the ducks and the geese,” he said.

Krost said the area would be transformed from a tranquil picnic and bird watching spot to an industrial docking station.

“There’s going to be lights, there’s going to be diesel engines, they’re going to be clanging and banging… just not what our community needs,” he said.

Chillicothe Mayor Mike Hughes said he is “100% opposed to the project.” He said the Illinois River is a big asset to the city.

“Our park serves as a main attraction for our locals, tourists, visitors… They’re all watching eagles, pelicans, cranes and other wildlife. This simply is not the place for this,” said Hughes.

Kevin Yates, executive director of the Chillicothe Park District, said the board of trustees unanimously voted against the proposal in their November meeting.

“The proposed barge fleeting and mooring operation would undoubtedly detract from the natural beauty of this unique recreation area,” he said.

Hamm told WMBD the group is misinformed about the proposal. He said the barge traffic can only flow one way because the river is too narrow. He said the area would merely serve as a waiting area for barges trying to pass through.

“It’s more or less a transit thing,” he said. “They need a place to wait.”

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