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dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;">Starved Rock is Illinois’ oldest state park and some parts of it, such as a bridge that has been out of commission for at least five years, look the part.
Aging amenities and severe weather such as flooding are increasing wear and tear on the park.
The biggest cause of deterioration, though, might be the park’s success – its number of visitors has exploded in recent years up to about 2.8 million annually.
State Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, whose district includes the park, is part of a bipartisan effort to increase funds to provide improvements such as boardwalks instead of sandstone trails; replacing stairs, rails and bridges, and creating a trail that would be accessible to people who use wheelchairs.
Rezin said that the park is conveniently located near urban and suburban areas, and she believes that social media has spread the word to urbanites that this jewel is in their midst.
With heavy use come heavy needs, said Kerry Novak, site superintendent for the park. He said that while much of the park, and especially picnic areas and the lodge, have no problems, there is still a need for some contractor work, more maintenance and police staffers, and the money to pay them.
“With somewhere between 2 million and 3 million people, many of the facilities are getting a great deal of use, especially the hiking trails,” Novak said.
“The staff that we have is kind of inadequate to do everything,” he said. “Just keeping up with the routine workload – the mowing, the keeping the bathrooms clean, the garbage picked up – is taking away from any time that we have to make trail improvements or major repairs.”
Illinois state parks are free to the public, at least for now, and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources is seeking funds to keep them safe and beautiful. Rezin said funding repairs at Starved Rock is supported by both sides of the aisle in Springfield.