Thursday, April 4, 2019

Illinois Statewide Park Entrance Fees On The Horizon

This morning the Senate Environment Committee had a hearing on SB 1310. Senator Rezin introduced this piece of legislation to begin implementing a parking fee for Starved Rock State Park. This state park is ranked 11th in the nation and the local area has seen an increase in the number of visitors. LaSalle County residents are struggling with the over 3 million visitors they see each year and the state park maintenance is deteriorating.
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The new amendment would exempt out LaSalle County Residents. Senator Rezin stated that because LaSalle County residents deal with the traffic flow and infrastructure issues along with the public safety costs, she wants them to be exempt from the parking fee.

The fee "could be in the range of $5 - $7" according to Michael Stevens from the DNR.

The money would be deposited into a set fund to be used for Starved Rock, with 80% of the fees raised going toward maintenance costs and 20% going to a public safety fund to be used to recoup costs for rescues and other emergency type situations.

Many of the Senators on the committee feel that this fee structure should be implemented on a statewide basis. There were also concerns that by exempting LaSalle county residents, a bad precedent will be set when this goes statewide, with local municipalities near other parks wanting the fees to be waived for their residents as well.

The sponsor stated that the residents have dealt with many issues and it has been a problem for the county, with roads deteriorating and public safety funds being used for rescues within the park. However, it was brought up in committee that this county is also benefitting greatly from the increase in visitors.

Starved Rock visitors sleep in their hotels, eat in their restaurants and get gas at their gas stations.

When asked if the DNR sees this as a prototype to be used to implement a statewide plan, Michael Stevens stated that "the agency has tried in the past (to implement a state wide fee) and they would like to see how this works and take it from there."

Stevens continued to say that there would "most likely be a one - two year implementation plan for this." The Department is looking at obtaining kiosks to be used at the entrances of the state parks.

These kiosks could cost a total of $200,000 to purchase and install.

Senator Rezin will be filing a resolution to encourage the Department of Natural Resources to use this as a prototype for a future implementation of a statewide entrance fee to all Illinois state parks.

SB 1310 has been moved to the Senate Floor. The sponsor has stated that she will continue to work on the bill and there could be additional amendments when the bill gets to the House.

To keep up to date with this and many other bills check out our Legislation page:

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