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Our sorry state

Friday, Sep 27, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* This problem needs fixing. Millions of people visit that state park every year and they’re wearing it out

You can’t hike into Tonti Canyon anymore. The trails are so badly eroded that officials at Starved Rock State Park decided they’re unsafe to tread.

Pam Grivetti fears the park’s remaining major trails also are on borrowed time. She decided somebody needed to get Springfield’s attention and pump some money into the state park — and fast.

Grivetti is president of the Starved Rock Foundation, and she went on a letter-writing blitz to Springfield. She wants every lawmaker and state agency attached to Starved Rock and Matthiessen state parks to know: Starved Rock is headed for a tipping point and desperately needs help.

“The No. 1 goal of the Department of Natural Resources is to preserve and protect the resources of the state of Illinois,” Grivetti wrote. “The DNR has been losing the battle at the busiest park in the state and one of the busiest state parks in the nation. […]

[Sen. Sue Rezin] championed a bill to charge a $5 parking fee, with funds allocated for infrastructure and safety. Senate Bill 1310 stalled, however, over a fee exemption for La Salle County residents. Rezin said recently she plans to reintroduce the measure in 2020, though not in the veto session beginning Oct. 28.

Take out the exemption and get it done.


  1. - Former Lasalle Co Resident - Friday, Sep 27, 19 @ 11:57 am:

    The problem is LaSalle County residents feel it “their” park, and dont want to have to pay for “outsiders” messing it up.

    The best compromise idea I hard was to have a like $25 yearly pass.

  2. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Sep 27, 19 @ 11:58 am:


    These agencies are the squeaky wheel, in the best of times, and the blaring management nightmares during the worst of times. The press these few agencies get for the most part arguably contain the worst news governors can get.

    Ok, things need help at Starved Rock. Yep. Now we have to pay for it before serious injury eclipses worn out trails.

    Campaigns are hard, governing is difficult.

    Those four agencies tell me so.

  3. - Demoralized - Friday, Sep 27, 19 @ 12:00 pm:

    The state should do the same thing the feds. Establish a fee to enter the parks but also offer an annual pass to get into all state parks. I wouldn’t have any problem at all paying a fee.

    It’s shameful the way this state has neglected state parks and DNR in general.

  4. - Senseless - Friday, Sep 27, 19 @ 12:16 pm:

    Maybe the capital bill should have allocated $ for public places like this instead of all them private pork projects the gov passed out. We can rid the state of c.m.s. and use that $…

  5. - Rich Miller - Friday, Sep 27, 19 @ 12:21 pm:

    ===all them private pork projects===


  6. - RNUG - Friday, Sep 27, 19 @ 12:27 pm:

    For those advocating a fee for the parks, being free was one of the few bright shining lights in the State. Visitors to the State are always surprised and impressed at the free State parks and historic sites.

    Don’t impose new fees. Just find the money in the budget to fix things.

  7. - Pot calling kettle - Friday, Sep 27, 19 @ 12:51 pm:

    I would prefer to have are parks paid for with taxes. However, the sense of commonwealth services paid for by broad-based taxes seems to have died sometime in the 1970’s or 80’s. (Reagan was its champion.) This leaves us with a patchwork of fees for government services that were covered by taxes.

    Because that is the expectation and the reality, it’s hard to see how we can maintain the parks without visitor fees. That said, there needs to be an annual pass for frequent visitors. Someone who visits the park several times a week to hike for 30 minutes or an hour cannot afford $5/visit, and those frequent visitors build necessary local support.

  8. - Back to the Future - Friday, Sep 27, 19 @ 12:51 pm:

    Agree with RNUG.

  9. - NoGifts - Friday, Sep 27, 19 @ 12:59 pm:

    WPA for Illinois today.

  10. - 47th Ward - Friday, Sep 27, 19 @ 1:04 pm:

    A parking fee makes sense because it puts the additional costs onto park visitors, the ones who hike the trails, fill the garbage cans and use the facilities. The more visitors, the more maintenance required, but this way some of that cost falls to park visitors in addition to taxpayers like me who don’t visit Starved Rock every year.

    There is no such thing as free. Every service has a cost. The trick is to spread the costs as fairly as possible. A parking fee does that, in my opinion.

  11. - Jolly Green Peon - Friday, Sep 27, 19 @ 1:05 pm:

    DNR needs a green infrastructure plan to address deficiencies at all their sites not just Starved Rock. State parks in all the states around us are better maintained and staffed. Trying to rely on general revenue funds is currently not working. Most states have entrance fees with a discount for residents. Missouri sets aside a portion of their sales tax for parks. There are lots of ideas but we need the will to implement them. For rural counties these could be much better economic drivers than they currently are but would need an upfront investment.

  12. - SpfdNewb - Friday, Sep 27, 19 @ 1:27 pm:

    The issue is enforcement, not funding. The last time I visited Starved Rock, I counted at least 2 groups of 4 or more people trailblazing off the established path. I have read articles about kids marking the grounds with graffiti and proudly sharing photos of it. Yet I never once witnessed any LEO/Ranger at the site.

    Does there need to be a parking fee, maybe. That is appropriate for debate. But first, enforce the rules to prevent the damage in the first place.

  13. - Benjamin - Friday, Sep 27, 19 @ 1:28 pm:

    If the main problem is funding, perhaps we could have a state park pass like Wisconsin. (It’s $28/year for Wisconsin residents.) But most parks don’t have the overcrowding problem Starved Rock has, so some could still be free, or maybe free at certain low-demand times (think Illinois Beach in January).

    If the main problem is crowding rather than funding, then maybe only charge for parking on weekends or the summer, and use the proceeds to run a free shuttle for non-drivers between the main visitor center and downtown LaSalle. That would give locals their free entrance, and also encourage tourists who parked their cars there to spend some of their money in the nearby towns.

  14. - Tequila Mockingbird - Friday, Sep 27, 19 @ 1:52 pm:

    We already pay taxes and fees that were supposed to support the state parks. Blago did the fund sweeps and devastated the funding available. They haven’t been restored or well funded since, even though many dollars were supposed to be earmarked from hunting and fishing licenses and permits. If the DNR was funded and staffed like it was supposed to be, additional fees or permits wouldn’t be needed.

  15. - BluegrassBoy - Friday, Sep 27, 19 @ 1:53 pm:

    State Parks need a dedicated funding stream like the Forest Preserve Districts. I’ve heard that DuPage County Forest Preserve District has a bigger operating budget than all of DNR. A funding stream need to be developed

  16. - Demoralized - Friday, Sep 27, 19 @ 1:58 pm:

    ==at the free State parks and historic sites==

    And you see where that has got us

  17. - Stuff Happens - Friday, Sep 27, 19 @ 2:10 pm:

    $5 one-time fee or $10 annual fee.

  18. - fact checker - Friday, Sep 27, 19 @ 3:18 pm:

    Rich Miller - Friday, Sep 27, 19 @ 12:21 pm:

    ===all them private pork projects===


    maybe a good cause but id say a hospital is a private entity?

    There’s also money for Chicago hospitals: $1 million for Mount Sinai; $14 million for Rush University Medical Center to make ADA improvements; $550,000 for Norwegian-American Hospital; $250,000 for Amita Health St. Mary’s and Elizabeth.

  19. - Romeo - Friday, Sep 27, 19 @ 3:19 pm:

    Illinois tacked on a $2 fee roughly 10(ish?) years ago to IL vehicle registration. I remember this because it went from $99 to $101, where it’s stayed. Why are park entrance fees tacked onto vehicle registration? Not everyone that uses state parks gets in by vehicle (bicycles, walking, carpooling, etc). If we are shifting to user based fees, make it based on headcount (i.e. $5 a head or $20 a carload), and eliminate the $2 vehicle tack-on fee. Oh, and if you do a parking fee at Starved Rock, better well make one at Mathiessen, too. People will just park for free at Mathiessen and hike over to Starved Hike to avoid another few.

  20. - Just Me 2 - Friday, Sep 27, 19 @ 3:34 pm:

    Why should LaSallle residents be exempt? It’s a state park, not a local one.

  21. - Chicagonk - Friday, Sep 27, 19 @ 4:03 pm:

    @Bluegrass - Illinois DNR budget is $2 billion. The money is there, DNR just needs to put it to better use.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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