By Susan Vela
BURRITT TOWNSHIP — Farmer Lana Daly couldn’t sit, wait and watch for the Great Lakes Basin Transportation Inc. railroad to come through her property.
She became an activist soon after she learned train tracks might impose upon her family’s centennial farm of about 280 acres.
Daly, 56, helped organize an Oct. 18 informational meeting that drew hundreds of concerned residents to Winnebago High School.
They were upset with Great Lakes. It had announced that a section of its proposed railroad through Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin would switch to Winnebago County from Boone County.
Daly urged them to stay informed and, if they opposed the plan, to write protest letters to the U.S. Surface Transportation Board, which must approve the project.
Her activism remains energetic. By day, she is an Auburn High School reading teacher with Rockford Public Schools. After hours, she connects with her fellow protesters, studies Great Lakes and tries to be as knowledgeable as she can to stop the railroad.
The activist has helped build a database of about 1,800 people who want to stay connected with the railroad protesters.
Whenever she can, she tells people the fight isn’t over even though the Winnebago County Board passed an ordinance opposing the railroad.
“It’s really heartwarming,” she said. “There are people in Boone County who are like, ‘No, we are going to help you fight this.’
“I’ve never been involved in this kind of a grassroots effort. I'm still responding emotionally. I guess the prospect of losing four generations of hard, honest work, regardless of how it's discussed, is disturbing. Multiply that by hundreds of farmers and it's purely disgusting."
She urges observers to like Facebook accounts created by Rock Against the Rail, which states “A Letter A Day Keeps Great Lakes Basin Away.” Daly wants followers to also like Facebook accounts created by BLOCK GLB Railroad and Winnebago County Against GLB Railroad.
“You have to be patient. There are so many people involved," Daly said. "We’ve got everybody engaged and ready to go forward. We have the ability to contact people and keep them informed."