Saline Valley Development Association | Southern Illinois University Special Collections Research Center
The Saline Valley Development Association was one of the first community development programs in southern Illinois. It was incorporated in 1958 and consisted of citizens of Saline and Gallatin Counties. Involving public and private organizations and citizens, the SVDA led economic development projects in these counties.
The SVDA had its origin in the County Board of Supervisors of Saline County. In May 1957, upon the suggestion of board member Ewell Winkleman, an industrial committee of three men was appointed from this board with the objective of attracting industry to the area. The committee decided that a larger group of individuals from a broader geographic area was necessary to perform its work. On June 15, 1957, Mr. R. S. Davenport, Chairman of the Industrial Development Committee of the Harrisburg Junior Chamber of Commerce invited Richard Poston, Director of the Community Development Service (CDS) of Southern Illinois University Carbondale, to attend a meeting on June 28 in Saline County. The meeting objective was to unite Saline and Gallatin Counties into a two-county organization which would approach mutual problems and needs. Poston encouraged the formation of a bi-county organization to work on the development of the area.
The organizers formed a steering committee, and at a July 12 meeting on the SIU campus, drafted a constitution for what became the Saline Valley Development Association. The steering committee included: Raymond Field of Carrier Mills, Saline County Supervisor; Ewell Winkleman of Harrisburg, Saline County Supervisor; Mort Watson of Eldorado, businessman; F. D. Pankey of Carrier Mills, businessman; and W. A. Gross of Stonefort, Mayor; and representatives from the CDS including Richard Poston, Robert Knittel, Dick Franklin, Fred List, and Lois Burner.
The SVDA Executive Committee consisted of the three-person industrial committees of the two county boards of supervisors; one representative from each incorporated municipality (seven from each county); and as ex-officio members, the county chairman of the Democrat and Republican parties, and two representatives from the Community Development Service. The municipal representatives resided in Omaha, Galatia, Eldorado, Ridgeway, Old Shawneetown, New Shawneetown, Junction, Equality, Harrisburg, Carrier Mills, Stonefort, Muddy, Raleigh, and New Haven. The “General Assembly” included all of the citizens of both counties who were interested and participated in the program. Officers of the association would be elected by the General Assembly at their annual meeting: president, first vice-president, second-vice president, recording-secretary, secretary-treasurer, and others as authorized by the Executive Committee.
The SVDA led various agriculture, education, recreation, and industry projects during its existence. Several subcommittees, such as Government, Recreation, Beautification, Finance, Membership, Education Survey, Conservancy, Industrial, and Publicity and Public Relations, led studies and published reports on Saline and Gallatin county communities pertaining to these topics. The SVDA also contacted businesses to recruit jobs to the area; participated in the establishment of Southeastern Illinois College in Harrisburg; formed the Saline Valley Conservancy District in 1962 for flood control and water conservation projects; led the canalization of the Saline River; elevated US Route 45 and Illinois routes 1 and 13 above flood level; obtained federally assisted low-rent retirement housing in Harrisburg and Eldorado; led the establishment of an access road to Garden of the Gods recreation site; led the establishment of the A. L. Bowen Children’s Center (later Developmental Center) in Harrisburg; and other projects.
It is unclear when the SVDA ceased operation.