Southern Ill. campground, marina closed for ‘missing funds’

Blue Heron Campground and Marina closed; remains under investigation.
Published: Oct. 2, 2023 at 4:18 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 2, 2023 at 5:20 PM CDT
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WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Ill. (KFVS) - People wanting to enjoy the outdoors at a southern Illinois campground will have to change their plans.

The gates at Blue Heron Campground and Marina are locked due to an ongoing investigation, according to officials at the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge.

The gates at the facility have been closed since September 28.

According to a note posted on the gate, the gates are locked while officials investigate alleged missing funds and “other serious allegations.”

“We have suspended the concession contract at the marina and we therefore closed it, closed them from doing business temporarily,” said Donavon Henry, Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge deputy manager.

The note was posted after refuge management met on September 27 with members of the Blue Heron board of directors to review financial records.

Henry spoke with us Monday, October 2 about the investigation.

“This is the early stages and we hope it doesn’t take too long, but until we know a few more facts from this fact finding mission we really don’t know about a timeline or an outcome,” he said.

The note on the gates explained that the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office is investigating.

We reached out to the sheriff’s office and they confirmed they are working on the case, but couldn’t provide any new details, citing the ongoing investigation.

Meanwhile, Henry said the refuge knows this affects some people and they’re working to get these gates open as soon as they can.

“But until we find out what the nature of this is and where it’s going to lead we can’t advise people when it will be opened,” he said.

The official letter on the gate reads:

“Due to administrative and operational deficiencies, an on-going investigation with the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office for missing funds, and other serious allegations, we are suspending the concession contract and temporarily closing the Blue Heron Marina and Campground, effective at noon today, September 28, 2023.

“Refuge Management met yesterday, September 27, 2023, with the Blue Heron Board of Directors to discuss these matters, as well as begin a preliminary review of financial records. We will update you regarding the situation in the near future.

“In the meantime, should you need access to your boat at the facility, please contact Beth Kerley at (618)998-5910 or Donovan Henry at (618) 998-5942 to make arrangements.

“We apologize for the inconvenience but this suspension is necessary for us to investigate these adverse actions and to protect the interests of the United States Government and the American people.”

Both the Williamson County Sheriffs Office and the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge say they will keep us informed of any new updates.