* We haven’t really focused at all on the state park closures announced last week. Gov. Blagojevich has yet to ever visit a state park, and his cuts made from that ignorance are causing a big reaction around the state…
Eighty people came to Lock 14 of the Illinois and Michigan Canal in La Salle Wednesday night to oppose the state’s plan to close Hennepin Canal Parkway State Park on Nov. 1.
* This number was pretty astounding…
Between 300 and 400 people gathered Friday night at Kickapoo Landing in Kickapoo State Park to discuss saving the park from its Nov. 1 closure.
Tod Satterthwaite, operator of Kickapoo Landing, said dozens volunteered to help the efforts, which include contacting legislators and launching petition drives. […]
Though still under discussion, the group plans to recruit volunteers and organize, he said.
* I thought I heard last night on my teevee that community organizers were bad people? Whatever the case, you can sign an online petition by clicking here.
* More local activism…
This Labor Day weekend many visitors came into the restaurant to sign a petition circulated by local residents to prevent the closings. The petition has been available for signing at the restaurant since Friday. Sunday afternoon 12 pages sat on a table with roughly ten signatures each- and that was just the signatures that had been collected within the previous few hours.
* Same goes for Clinton…
The city and county will be sending out “SOS” messages as Save Our Springs signs protesting the closure of Weldon Springs begin sprouting in yards and businesses, and just about anywhere else a message can be placed.
* There is a ray of hope for at least some funding restorations…
State Rep. Frank Mautino (D-Spring Valley) provided a budget-making scenario that begins when the House reconvenes next week that could restore funding and keep parks open. […]
The House also will consider “fund sweeps” — dollars not in the state’s general revenue, held in separate accounts — that the governor can “sweep” into areas he wants funded, Mautino said.
* But, in the meantime, some of these cuts don’t seem to make any sense…
The Lowden State Park actually makes money — the park’s operating budget is $45,000 each year, and the park annually pulls in about $90,000, he said.
“Why would one close that park when it’s self-sustaining?” [Sen. Tim Bivins] said.
One of the very real issues of the closings will be maintenance of the Illinois and Michigan National Heritage Canal, which passes through Channahon Parkway and Gebhard Woods state parks […]
“I don’t think it was considered in Springfield when they were (planning to) close these two parks they were losing the manpower to maintain the Canal Corridor as well as Gebhard Woods and the Channahon park,” he said.
“This news is devastating from the tourism angle,” Cooke said. “It’s beyond comprehension.
“This cut doesn’t just affect Kickapoo, The staff there also oversees Middle Fork State Fish and Wildlife Area and Harry “Babe” Woodyard State Natural Area. People from all over the country come to our local parks.
* There are lots of unanswered questions…
Pliura, who leases land at Moraine View for the horses, then charges for rides, is just one of scores of private businesspeople across the state who make money by providing park users with food, firewood and other services.
Now that Gov. Rod Blagojevich has decided to close down the parks, officials have to figure out how exactly to close the facilities and what to do with vendors like Pliura who provide services there.
* And charges of political motivation are everywhere…
[Rep. Bill Black] said the park closure announcement made by Gov. Rod Blagojevich uses downstate Illinois like a political pawn. Black said it is the a way the governor tries to manipulate and embarrass Michael Madigan, the Illinois House of Representatives Speaker.
Black pointed out that the state gives plenty of money to Chicago’s museums, but parks like Kickapoo, and other sites on the list are those whose funding is cut.
* More charges…
[Sen. Tim Bivins] said it’s not a coincidence that the majority of the funding cuts for state parks and historic sites will come from regions represented by legislators who have not supported Blagojevich’s budget priorities.
“Take a look at where the funding cuts are, and what park districts and historic sites are affected and it is pretty obvious. The Governor’s cuts are blatantly political,” Bivins said. “They affect the districts of lawmakers who continue to try and hold Blagojevich accountable—like Senate Republican Leader Frank Watson or Senator Mike Jacobs, an East Moline Democrat who has been a vocal critic of the Governor on more than one occasion. And it is no coincidence that more than half of the affected sites are in my district and slightly southeast in the 38th District, an area represented by my Republican colleague State Sen. Gary Dahl of Granville.”
Both Bivins and Dahl have Democratic opponents.
* Democratic Rep. Careen Gordon has been hammered repeatedly by Gov. Blagojevich, and this time was no exception…
Gordon found out about the park closing on the night of Thursday, Aug. 28, after a phone call from the press in Springfield. A number of lawmakers she was with also were surprised with the decision, and Gordon said she sent an e-mail in order to establish contact with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, having also received a press release from the governor’s office.
“No phone call was returned to give us any more information than was put out in that press release,” Gordon said. “Not one more piece of information was given to us on Friday before the close of business and before this long holiday weekend.”
* And then there’s the economy angle. With gas prices high, inflation at a scary pace and people worried about the future, many people are taking advantage of state parks, as this restaurant owner explains…
But the effect the closing will have on low-income families and elderly seems to be what makes Gibson the most passionate. “We’ve had tons of people tell us this year that this is their vacation,” she said. “They can’t afford to go to Six Flags or Chicago or Disneyland because of gas. They camp with their kids and walk around and fish and go horseback riding.”
* More on that angle from Rep. Jerry Mitchell…
“Many vacationers are choosing to stay closer to home this year due to the high gas prices and the sluggish economy,” said Mitchell. “So these parks have become a home away from home for many Illinois families this summer. Now as we enter the fall and winter months, these areas will not be open for hunting, snowmobiling, and other cold weather activities citizens enjoy at our state parks.”
…a press release issued by Blagojevich in March of 2007 announced that 44.4 million people had visited Illinois state parks in 2006, an increase of 316,429 over the previous year.
* Last word…
Ripple effects will be far-reaching, said City engineer Mike Etscheid. The closure will be counterproductive to state tourism efforts to bring people to the area, he said.
“You’re basically telling them, ‘Go to Wisconsin; go to Indiana.’ “
* Number of state workers being laid off disputed
* Home of Oregon Icon Will Close
* Friends of Canal to meet today about closures
* Morris fights plan to close parks
* Closure list…
STATE HISTORIC SITES
— Dana-Thomas House, Springfield
— Lincoln log cabin near Charleston
— David Davis mansion, Bloomington
— Fort de Chartres, Randolph County
— Vandalia statehouse
— State center at Bishop Hill, Henry County
— Carl Sandburg birthplace, Galesburg
— Cahokia courthouse
— Bryant Cottage, Bement
— Jubilee College, near Peoria
— Apple River Fort, Elizabeth
— Fort Kaskaskia, Randolph County
— Pierre Menard home, Randolph County
— 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