Budget cuts close Olson Lake indefinitely

Olson Lake at Rock Cut State Park has been closed since the opening of the 2004 season, and park sources indicate that it may remain closed next year.

While park officials have clearly stated that the closing stems from a staffing shortage, some citizens in the surrounding area wonder if there are other reasons. Mark Lunky of Rockford, who regularly swims at Olson Lake when it is open, is skeptical of the decision to close the lake. “I just wonder if there’s something else going on here that the public isn’t being told about,” he said. “How many people do they really need to staff the beach?”

Dan Riggs, site superintendent at Rock Cut, explained that normally four people are required to staff the beach at Olson Lake. Riggs also points out that the lake may remain closed beyond the 2004 season, depending on how this year’s budget turns out. The fiscal year for the park started July 1.

The budget is, in part, controlled by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, which affects numerous state parks, not just Rock Cut. Officials at the Department of Natural Resources could not be reached for comment.

Although the beach is closed to foot traffic and the lake is off limits for swimming, park patrons are still regularly seen picnicking on blankets on nearby grass, and even fly fishing on other areas of the shore. Park employees who work at Rock Cut’s Pierce Lake, which remains open, have not noticed an increase in traffic this season.

Olson Lake was closed voluntarily on July 6, 1995, after reports of eight children who became ill after swimming there in late June of that year. The cause at that time was decided to be human waste in the lake. Since 1995, the water has been safe and tested frequently by Department of Public Health.

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