An announced grant for Oglesby to create a small park-like area, canoe and kayak launch and parking area near the Ed Hand Highway bridge over the Vermilion River comes as great news to rafters, canoeists, kayakers and anglers like me.
Yes, it was legal to access the river for fishing and to take out or launch canoes after walking down a steep path from the northeast corner of the bridge, but a safer access area and the prospect of not having to parallel park along the county highway is great for outdoors lovers. It also adds to what Oglesby officially offers residents and visitors.
There simply are not enough good, legal access points to rivers and streams.
Over the years, fewer owners grant permission for access for fishing or hunting, because, to distort an old saying, a few bad apples spoil the barrel.
Old-timers in the area remember when they could get permission to fish at the Lone Star dam, a fantastic fishing spot. The owners of the closed cement mill aren’t going to allow anyone in there, and for understandable reasons for safety in that case.
Old-timers remember when there was an excellent access to the Vermilion River northwest of the Route 71 bridge at Jonesville, but that’s gated and much of the property between the bridge and river is private. Again, you can walk down a steep path from the southeast corner of the bridge to fish under it, but it’s not the same as having a nice, flat spot and not risking a slip and fall.
Before the new Shippingsport Bridge opened in the early 2000s, anybody could drive down the public road back to a spot beneath the bridge and fish or have a campfire. And most any day in the spring, summer and fall, you could never have the place to yourself, as it was so popular. Now that’s gated, a La Salle bait shop owner says the state has hurt his business and always asks why the state can close off public access to its own natural resources.
But at Shippingsport, the burden of policing that area and frequent vandalism, underage drinking issues and other problems in that location were an issue, as is, perhaps, the condition of the roadbed there.
Closing of the parking lot on the Vermilion River at the state’s Sandy Ford nature area is a travesty, but again litterbugs and unseemly characters — a drug-related shooting took place on the bridge — may well have spoiled that access point for years to come.