SPRINGFIELD– State parks have a combined $720 million in repair needs, according to a new investigation.
The Better Government Association report says the Illinois Department of Natural Resources has been delaying maintenance projects for years, to the point where the total cost of completing repairs is more than double the department’s annual operating budget.
The majority of those needed repairs are for buildings and trails. BGA investigator Katie Drews recounts an example from the 26-mile-long Rock Island Trail, a hiking and biking path near Peoria.
“They’ve seen a lot of erosion, they’ve seen just massive holes, essentially, in the middle of their trail, that’s been there for years now, without ever being repaired,” Drews said.
The eroded section is closed off, but it also essentially cuts the usable portion of the trail in half.
Drews also mentions millions in maintenance needs at Illinois’ most visited state park, Starved Rock, including sewer repairs, campground upgrades, and roofs needing to be replaced.
Budget cuts and decreased staff at the DNR may be one reason why so many projects have been delayed, and Gov. Bruce Rauner had proposed reducing the DNR’s budget by another $16 million for this fiscal year.