U.S. Representative Adam Kinzinger is working on a bill that would expand the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area to portions of the WNIJ listening area.
One of these areas is Freeport. It's well-known as the site of the second Lincoln-Douglas debate, with a statuary park and other exhibits commemorating the event.
Freeport Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Connie Sorn says it’s also where Douglas formed the Freeport Doctrine. This claimed that states could pass laws for or against slavery, regardless of Supreme Court decisions.
“That had a lot of impact, not only on that senatorial race for which they were debating but also two years later when Lincoln was elected for the presidency.”
Sorn says Freeport already is part of the state’s Looking For Lincoln Wayside exhibit program, but the federal designation being proposed by Kinzinger would be advantageous.
Lots of different things, but potentially access to some grant funding, being part of it from a promotional standpoint. Those are important things that, if we have that federal designation, would be very helpful.”
Livingston County is also included in the bill. It has several wayside exhibits commemorating Lincoln's early law career, and trying the county’s first court case.
Pontiac Tourism Director Ellie Alexander says they were a bit late in applying to the federal program. However, she says Kinzinger’s expansion would benefit local tourism.
“We already see quite a few visitors that are historic travelers, and I think just being part of that designation would increase that.”
Finally, the bill also includes the city of Jonesboro, located in far southern Union County.