Monday, April 30, 2007

I Wonder...

Having combed the state for material for Biking Illinois, I consider myself pretty knowledgeable about tourist sites here. So let's take a look at the "Seven Wonders of Illinois" according to those who voted on the Bureau of Tourism's Web site. By region:
  • Northern: Starved Rock State Park, Utica. I can't argue with this one.
  • Central: Allerton Park and Retreat Center, Monticello. I'll admit that I don't know much about this place except that I found it while driving around searching for the somewhat elusive Heartland Pathways, a multi-use trail project which runs through Monticello. But surely Rockome Gardens in Amish Country or something Lincoln-related near Springfield would have been a better choice. The article reports that Allerton Park conducted a strong get-out-the-vote campaign to win. By the way, I finally found the Heartland Pathways after dark and was unimpressed, although there is great potential once they become more developed.
  • Western: Black Hawk State Historic Site, Rock Island. In all the times I've been to Rock Island, I've never visited this place so I can't fairly judge. In general, a site associated with Chief Black Hawk is probably a legitimate choice. And yet I can't help thinking people who have never been there thought they were voting for Loredo Taft's Black Hawk statue (officially named The Eternal Indian), which overlooks the Rock River near Oregon, IL.
  • Southern: Rend Lake, Benton. This choice is ridiculous. Southern Illinois is a beautiful region with several great candidates. Yet voters overlooked Garden of the Gods (Ride 58 in Biking Illinois) and Giant City State Park (Ride 54) to pick a dammed lake? (Lest the pun slip past anyone, Rend Lake was formed by a dam on the Big Muddy River.) For that matter, what makes Rend so much better than Shelbyville, Carlyle, or any of the other man-made lakes in the state?
  • Southwest: Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Byway, following a 33-mile strip of river through Alton, Grafton, Hartford and Elsah. This is a good choice. It's a beautiful drive through historic towns beneath magnificent bluffs -- or a beautiful ride on the parallel Vadalabene River Road Bikeway (Ride 46 in Biking Illinois).
  • Chicago: Wrigley Field. I suppose my family would disown me if I argued against this one, but there are many other worthy wonders in Chicago. At least it's a better choice than the new Soldier Field!
  • Chicagoland: Baha'i House of Worship, Wilmette. The suburbs have plenty of candidates, but this intricately detailed structure is probably as good a choice as any. It's also the starting point for Ride 21 in Biking Illinois.

Overall, Rend Lake is the only real stinker here, although Allerton Park is a dubious choice. Of course, my problem with lists like this is that they are so limiting. I hope they don't promote these seven "wonders" to the detriment of the other great places in Illinois.

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