Tight budget puts crunch on Illinois parks

MAKANDA, IL (KFVS) - The future of Illinois state parks is a worry for tourists all over the Heartland as summer approaches and Illinois budgets tighten.

There are no plans to close Giant City State Park at this point, but they are running with a skeleton crew.

Campers at Giant City state park say they hardly notice issues amidst all the beauty.

Yet, signs at the visitors center could use some paint. Nearby an area remains closed off due to tornado damage. Spots could use mowing. Showers need maintenance too.  Those are all areas where repair isn't a priority since the state drastically cut funding for parks.

Campers say they see bare bones staff working hard to keep things going.

Superintendent Bob Martin says he doesn't think the park will close completely.

"You may see some areas close," said Bob Martin. "Some spots may not get mowed, we may have to close off the baseball field, most picnic and trail areas will stay open."

He's hoping state lawmakers will soon approve a bill allowing parks to charge admission fees

Tourists say they have mixed feelings about paying for a park.

"If I have to pay a fee I won't even enter you're getting rid of a lot of tourism for the state of Illinois," said Tina Gegg from Ste. Genevieve, Mo.

"It's something that makes no difference to me," said Robert Rhein of Perryville, Mo. "We are 70 miles from here. We'd come back."

"It should be free," said Al Wunderlich. "We shouldn't have to pay! That's wrong!"

With summer quickly approaching, superintendents say they will keep as much open as they can but they know something has to be done to keep this park in operation for years to come.

"We need to find some sort of sustainable funding because now budgets, it's tight," said Bob Martin.

The lodge will not close along with the very popular Sunday brunch that is not going anywhere.

As for fees, another hearing is scheduled for that bill on Wednesday.

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