The following message was written by Woodstock resident Jayson Hemphill. His family’s farm lies in the path of the Illiana Tollway planned across Will County by soon-to-be former Governor Pat Quinn.
During his campaign, winner Bruce Rauner was not heard to say anything about the proposed tollway.
Here’s is Hemphill’s message:
I am writing this letter in strong opposition to the proposed Illiana Expressway.
I am also writing as a member of the 6th generation of the descendants of James Hemphill, well documented as one of the first settlers of Will County.
My niece and nephew represent the 7th generation of my family still residing here.
The Geiss family, on my mother’s side, can be traced back to at least 5 generations of local farmers as well.
As I write, I can tell you that I have been raised in an environment that harbors a deep distrust and resentment of governmental authority.
This attitude is as close to being a part of our DNA as it could be.
This sentiment is grounded in 70 plus years of having our farms, property, and homes ravaged by the “needs” of our government.
I put forth to you today, that, the citizens of southern Will County have already given enough.
In 1941, the federal government decided that it needed 40,000 of our acres to support the war effort. As a result of that decision, 450 farms had to be vacated.
Farmers and their families, some of which had already worked this land for three or four generations, were often given only 30 days to leave behind the land that they and their ancestors had quite literally cleared and homesteaded themselves.
I recently heard the story of how a small number of farmers resisted on the day that the United States Army arrived to take possession of their land.
Supposedly, these citizens showed up, pitchfork in hand, to protest and to “fight” for what was rightfully theirs.
As the story goes, the commanding officer addressed these men by saying, and I’m paraphrasing,
“The government needs your land more than you do”,
and they disbanded, peacefully.
Many of these landowners could never afford to own land again, and were relegated to renting farmland, for the remainder of their careers as farmers.
In my family alone, I know of at least four farms that were absorbed into the arsenal property.
Two of these farms belonged to great-grandparents on both sides of my family.
I am here to tell you, that, to the tune of 40,000 acres and 450 farmsteads, the citizens of southern Will County have already given enough.
Fast forward 40 plus years and we find that politicians from other areas of the state had decided that we need another Chicagoland airport, to be located in the southeastern portion of Will County.
Nearly $100,000,000 of our taxpayer dollars was spent on years of studies and also to purchase over 2,000 acres of our land, beginning about 12 years ago.
Where is the airport?
What is the state of Illinois doing with our land?
That airport was dead on arrival.
These are some of the same bureaucrats that want you to trust them on this Illiana Expressway.
Once again, the citizens of southern Will County have already given enough.
In 1993, when the federal government decided that it no longer needed over half of the 40,000 acres of the arsenal; federal, state, and local politicians began to divide up our land for purposes that were often self-serving.
This land was not being sold back to the residents of southern Will County, but to corporations that would bring us acres and acres of warehouses, union training facilities, and of course, a landfill that can be seen and smelled for miles.
To add insult to injury, we were informed that it had been decided to “set aside” 19,000 acres for a National Tallgrass Prairie. While the need for land conservation is real, so is the need to protect the steadily declining number of acres dedicated to farmland in Illinois.
Do we really need 19,000 acres of tallgrass prairie?
There is one exception in all of this waste….The Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery.
I do believe that residents of any area of the country would be proud to dedicate their land for the purpose of a national cemetery.
The Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery (accounting for merely 1,000 of the 40,000 acres in question) represents the only redeeming use of any of the acreage that southern Will County citizens have given up for their country.
Now, for the past 4 or 5 years the citizens of southern Will County have had to hear about a new threat from the decision makers that rule over our land.
Less than one mile south of the southernmost end of the 40,000 acres that we gave up 70 years ago, they now want to take even more of OUR land to build the Illiana Expressway.
I’m sure that I’m not the only one that sees the irony in displacing MORE of our homes and taking even MORE of our farmland, when less than a mile to the north we have “set-aside” 19,000 acres to grow tallgrass.
That fact alone, screams of the lack of common sense involved in this entire process.
But, I’m really not here to argue the merits of the numbers being touted in favor of this project, or the obvious errors in the geography and logistics.
Any one of us can very easily find fact based figures that refute the claims being made by those in favor of this new state of Illinois pet-project.
I AM here to simply ask on behalf of the citizens of southern Will County, “Haven’t we already given enough?”