Reopening of state parks!! Yipee

Discussion in 'LOCAL ILLINOIS TALK' started by capnmac59, Feb 26, 2009.

  1. capnmac59

    capnmac59 New Member

    The "closed" signs came down Thursday at seven state parks that fell victim to budget squabbles last year, giving local officials hope of an economic bounce as warm weather approaches and visitors return.
    The parks, mostly in northern Illinois and east-central Illinois, drew about 2.2 million visitors a year before former Gov. Rod Blagojevich shuttered them in November. Nearby businesses suffered when the parks closed, even in the slow winter months, and owners worried about even more pain in the spring and summer.
    But Gov. Pat Quinn announced Thursday morning that the parks were again open for business, at a cost to the state of $1.1 million. The Chicago Democrat said his predecessor's budget cuts ultimately cost more than they saved by hurting the economy.
    "We have to be much brighter and smarter than that," Quinn said.
    Soon after Quinn's announcement, a few people braved bad weather to visit Lowden State Park in northern Illinois, said Marcia Heuer, executive director of the chamber of commerce in nearby Oregon. The park's 48-foot statue of an American Indian will be illuminated Thursday night for the first time in months, she said.
    "That's been the most depressing thing all this winter is not having the lights on the statue," Heuer said. "Tonight the lights will be lit."
    Lowden and another local state park, Castle Rock, attracted about 400,000 visitors a year. The parks generate vital business for many local restaurants, gas stations and motels, she said.
    Clinton Mayor Ed Wollet beamed over the reopening of Weldon Springs State Park, which draws about 333,000 visitors a year. The central Illinois park is a popular site for picnics or a leisurely day of fishing - which usually involves buying supplies in Clinton, just three miles away.
    After Blagojevich closed the park, a restaurant there went out of business, ending 18 jobs, he said.
    Three of the newly opened parks lie in northern Illinois: Castle Rock, Lowden and Illini. The others - Moraine View, Weldon Springs, Wolf Creek and Hidden Springs State Forest - are in central Illinois.
    Blagojevich closed the parks, along with a dozen historic sites, last year after lawmakers ignored his budget proposals and passed a spending plan that was woefully out of balance.
    Many lawmakers regarded the cuts as an attempt to generate public pressure rather than a legitimate attempt to balance the budget. Even after lawmakers voted to provide money for the parks, Blagojevich refused to keep them open.
    Quinn defended his decision to open the parks and rehire 12 employees when the state's budget deficit is expected to top $9 billion next year, likely requiring both spending cuts and tax increases.
    Closing the parks may save a meager amount but " the loss to our economy is tremendous," Quinn said. Parks are not only an economic boon, but they also encourage people to get exercise and stay fit, reducing health problems, he said.
    Quinn said he expects to have good news soon on the fate of the historic sites that Blagojevich closed.
    When Blagojevich cut the budget, the Historic Preservation Agency division that oversees the now-closed sites lost half its $5.6 million budget for this year, said agency spokesman Dave Blanchette. Thirty-three people lost jobs when the historic sites, including the farm where Abraham Lincoln first lived after moving to Illinois, the former state capitol in Vandalia and the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Dana Thomas House in downtown Springfield, closed.
    Quinn said his efforts to reverse some cuts shouldn't be taken as a sign that state government can avoid some major reductions.
    "We'll have more cost-cutting to come, don't worry about that," he said.
  2. Mickey

    Mickey New Member Supporting Member

    Mark thanks for sharing. Its good to see or hear some good news that will have a postive affect for many people.