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Opinion

Open forum: Our state parks are being destroyed and the state is doing little to help

Help! The trails and canyon areas of Starved Rock State Park are being destroyed by overuse and illegal climbers of which there are too numerous to count on weekends! Tonti Canyon, One of 9 canyons the public has access to is now cordoned off due to excess use and extreme erosion.

The No. 1 goal of the Department of Natural Resources is to preserve and protect the resources of the State of Illinois. The DNR has been losing the battle at the busiest park in the state and one of the busiest State Parks in the nation! 2017 statistics reveal Starved Rock had a greater yearly attendance than 50 of the 60 US National Parks! The park is seriously understaffed but needs seem to go to deaf ears at Springfield DNR; the hiring process is ridiculously inefficient. Yes, all state parks are compromised, but Starved Rock is in crises! Holiday weekends are nightmares of a sea of humanity and regular weekends May-October are not much better.

On Labor Day weekend, Starved Rock Park attendance was: Saturday Aug. 31, 24,844; Sunday, Sept. 1, 28,369; Monday, Sept. 2, 29,343 = 82,556.

Matthiessen State Park which is overseen by Starved Rock staff: Saturday, Aug. 31, 4169; Sunday, Sept. 1, 5478; Monday, Sept. 2, 5407 = 15,054. This gives a grand total of visitors for three days at 97,610. The land and the staff are at the breaking point. The majority of our state parks wouldn’t see that total for a month.

The presence of Conservation Police Officers, who are trusted to enforce the laws of the state, are on the “endangered species list” at this park. In this region of the state there are five CPOs who are in charge of six counties: La Salle, Bureau, Putnam, Boone, Winnebago and DeKalb; plus all of the rivers, natural areas, parks and all hunting and fishing regulations within those boundaries = “endangered species”.

Many park visitors are unaware of, or choose to disregard, posted park rules that appear on numerous signs within the parks as well as on park maps and brochures. No one is available to enforce the Park rules on the trails, staff is spread so thin they are only able to respond if an emergency arises. For the most part on weekends the CPO’s and park staff are utilized to direct the never-ending stream of traffic entering the Parks. The public is on a rampage to do as they please with disregard for the park, their own safety and the safety of others. There are so many pictures on Facebook, Instagram, Trip Advisor, blog sites etc. of illegal climbing, swimming, wading, standing in waterfalls, visitors assume that these are all acceptable and legal activities to do at the park. The vandalism, defacing of canyon walls, destroying park signs is another facet of the overuse.

Wake up! Start doing your job State of Illinois DNR!

Pam Grivetti, President of Starved Rock Foundation

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