A guest post by Diane Germain (Haip) and Victor Germain.
Born in 1963, I grew up in Aurora Hills not far from the High Line Canal. The canal became my playground when I was old enough to venture off with my siblings and friends. We spent most of our summer days wading in the canal searching for anything that moved—tadpoles, frogs, crawdads, minnows, and our favorite, salamanders, the bigger the better. Some days we floated the canal on a thick piece of Styrofoam big enough to hold two or three people. When we reached the middle of an underpass, we planted our poles into the canal’s silted bottom, so the current could no longer carry us. In the cool, shaded interior, we marveled at the breeding Cliff Swallows and the intricate colony of mud nests they constructed on the tunnel’s vertical walls. We could hear the cars above us, and once ready to move on, we lifted our poles and let the current transport us to our next stop. These are among my childhood memories growing up on the canal.
I was born in 1995 and also had the opportunity to grow up near the canal in the Highland Park area. When I was young my mother and I would take to the canal and be gone for hours. If we headed south we sometimes stopped for ice cream or a hamburger by riding a couple blocks west of the canal. If we took the canal east we stopped a lot to play a round of putt-putt at Bicentennial Park. No matter the direction I would stop in search of wildlife, to smell the flowers or pick up cans to turn in for money. When I could no longer pedal my mom would tie a rope to my bicycle and tow me home. Unlike my mother I never floated down the canal but when I was old enough to venture out on my own my friends and I would search out the areas of the canal that had water to catch crawdads, minnows and snakes. As I got older I used the canal as part of my transportation to get to and from the city buses that took me to school or to a friend’s house. I still enjoy riding my bicycle and longboarding along the canal whenever I have the opportunity.
Together, Diane and Victor Germain have explored nearly all 71 miles of the canal on bicycles. Diane is in process of walking the entire length of the canal with Walk2 Connect in partnership with the High Line Canal Conservancy. Every 4th of July, you can still find mother and son heading east on the canal to watch the City of Aurora firework’s display at Bicentennial Park, something they still enjoy to this day.