Illinois DNR To Close 11 State ParksBy
Illinois To Close 11 State Parks
The state of Illinois will be closing 11 state park properties, 25 historical landmarks, and laying off 39 DNR employees after state budgets dropped $14 million of DNR funding in the state.
The state of Illinois is being forced to close 11 state parks after lawmakers recent made a $14 million dollar cut to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources funding. All eleven parks will be closed on November 1st, 2008. The Illinois DNR is also being forced to layoff 39 employees, 36 of whom are full-time. These employees include park rangers, security, superintendants, and park technicians.
Earlier this summer, Illinois’ General Assembly passed the state budget which included a 24% decrease in DNR general funding. This funding is used to pay park salaries and maintain the current park system. Many of Illinois’ lawmakers are attributing the cuts to a poor economy, but Illinois’ DNR claims that these parks are one of few areas that actually profit in the state. The Illinois state park system had over 45 million visitors in 2007, many of which spend more funds in local economies. It is thought that the loss in local revenue from visitors will far outweigh any savings that the state hopes to gain by the closures.
The Illinois DNR was actually in the process of making a proposal to slightly raise park fees in an effort to compensate for the state’s shortcomings on funding, when the measure to close the parks was handed down.
The parks in question (which I will list shortly) do have the possibility of being reopened at a future date, but DNR officials worry that without proper maintenance, it will take much more money to get these parks back in line. With a shortcoming on funds, they fear that this option may be a far stretch and future funding will not allow for the kind of work involved to reopen the parks.
Illinois’ DNR currently manages and maintains 320 state parks, natural areas, state forests, historical areas, and public property throughout Illinois. The fear now comes that even more state managed land will be closed in the future due to funding.
The Illinois state parks that will be closing on November 1st, 2008 include the following:
- Castle Rock State Park, Oregon
- Lowden State Park, Oregon
- Hennepin Canal Parkway State Park, Sheffield
- Illini State Park, Marseilles
- Channahon Parkway State Park, Channahon
- Gebhard Woods State Park, Morris
- Hidden Springs State Forrest, Strasburg
- Kickapoo State Park, Oakwood
- Moraine View State Park, Leroy
- Weldon Springs State Park, Clinton
- Wolf Creek State Park, Windsor
BikingBis, a blog dedicated to everything ‘cycling’, has mentioned that one of the biggest blows to the state will be the closure of Hennepin Canal Parkway State Park. This park boasts over 90 miles of trails and roadways dedicated to the bicycling enthusiast.
Along with the state park closings, Illinois will also be closing 25 historical landmarks, including four National historic Landmarks. These closings will take effect on October 1st, 2008. These closures will definitely be hitting the local economies pretty hard. Many of these historical landmarks are big tourist attractions and bring in much needed funds across smaller communities while also drawing in visitors and tourists to little known areas.
To see a list of the historical landmarks being closed across Illinois, please visit this site.
The economy is definitely hitting many areas hard right now. With state budgets in the billions of dollars, it just seems like there would be a way to cut funding to more ‘less meaningful’ projects, then to take away something that is meant ‘for the people’. $14 million dollars is not a lot of money to a state whose budget is in the billions. One less road would do the trick. Just something to think about..
I would appreciate any comments you might have on this issue. Is there a better way of handling Illinois’ DNR budget shortfall? I would like to hear your answers. Comment below.