Left Justified: The mauling of Rock Cut

Left Justified: The mauling of Rock Cut

By Stanley Campbell

The mauling of Rock Cut

In a rush for more sales tax dollars, Machesney Park officials and the Council of 100 want to put an interchange on Illinois Route 173 at I-90 next to our area’s foremost recreational resource, Rock Cut State Park.

They want to turn Route 173 into another Riverside Boulevard or East State Street with row after row of big-box stores with massive parking lots, ugly gas stations and fast-food restaurants.

When you go to a state park and commune with nature, what do you want most? A hamburger? Soon there’ll be enough fast food joints that you’ll be able to smell the grease while sailing on the lake.

City planners also want to widen Illinois Route 173 to four lanes, while developers build a strip mall across the road from one of the state’s most popular parks. Needless to say, this will threaten the park’s natural environment.

The rural tranquility that now greets visitors would be replaced by parking lots and traffic jams. The environmental impacts include more air pollution, runoff from asphalt, road kills of wildlife and noise. Lots of noise.

Study after study has shown that new roads fill up with traffic soon after they are built. They attract commercial development and promote urban sprawl into the countryside.

Right now, the state park draws more tourist dollars into the local economy than another big-box store and strip mall ever would.

Do we really need—or want—another commercial strip next to Rock Cut? Putting more strip malls and burger joints next to the best Illinois state park looks like a stinker of an idea.

The Illinois Tollway Authority and IDOT should take a serious look at the environmental impacts of any proposal to build an interchange at I-90 and widen Route 173.

Local officials should work hard to promote and protect Rock Cut State Park for the tourist dollars it brings to our local economy instead of strip mauling it to death.

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Minsitries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

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