State grants and budget deficits

State grants and budget deficits

By Phil Pash

As the state heads for a budget deficit now being projected at between $3 and $4 billion in the next fiscal year, Gov. George Ryan is releasing grant funds through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources at a rapid rate.

Like almost $90 million in December alone.

On Dec. 23, he released $36 million in funding for his Open Land Trust program, including the awarding of more than $19 million in grants for 18 local projects that will acquire open space and natural areas and nearly $17 million for pending and planned open space acquisition by the state.

On Dec. 11, Ryan announced $17.6 million in grants for 57 projects that include acquisition of land for new local parks, development of park lands and improvements to recreation facilities throughout Illinois.

On Dec. 9, he announced $36 million in capital grants to 56 public museums to help improve and develop new exhibits.

Grant recipients no doubt are delighted about getting the state money and will sing the praises of the lame-duck governor for his help, but they and all state residents are going to have to pick up the tab through that looming budget deficit. It is a continuation of the free spending that marked Ryan’s term.

Rick Pearson, who fled the local daily for the Chicago Tribune, summed it up in a recent analysis headlined, “No quiet farewell for Ryan.”

“The (budget) crisis has been aggravated by years of overspending under Ryan’s watch, yet Ryan is continuing in his final weeks to sign off on a flurry of controversial pork-barrel spending projects sponsored by legislators,” Pearson wrote.

At least some of the grant money is coming to the Rockford area and northwest Illinois.

Here are area winners in the latest round of the Governor’s Open Land Trust grants totaling $36 million:

l Winnebago County Forest Preserve District, $111,800, to acquire 84.5 acres off Haas Road in northwest Winnebago County. The site provides a trail link with Colored Sands Forest Preserve and also is adjacent to the Sugar River Adler Forest Preserve.

l Byron Forest Preserve District in Ogle County, $892,500, to acquire two parcels totaling 490.79 acres off River Road in southeast Byron. Both properties include frontage on the Rock River. Development plans include natural area restoration and a trail system.

l McHenry County Conservation District, $2 million, to acquire 570 acres of upland oak savanna and adjacent lowlands in southwest McHenry County. The site is adjacent to the district’s existing 892-acre Pleasant Valley Conservation Area. Plans include the restoration of wetlands along the Kishwaukee River, a parking area and nature trails.

l McHenry County Conservation District, $750,000, to acquire 248 acres of oak savanna and wetlands complex southeast of Harvard on Deep Cut Road. The property will add to a 1,000-acre site known as Brookdale. Future plans include the re-establishment and enhancement of the native plant communities and the development of multi-use trails.

Here are area winners of Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) and Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) grants totaling $17.6 million:

l Rockford Park District in Winnebago County, $400,000, to renovate the Harkins Pool at Fair Grounds Park on Acorn Street. The new pool will have zero depth entry, a new mechanical and filtration system, security lighting, fencing and landscaping.

l Winnebago Park District in Winnebago County, $327,800, to acquire 26.06 acres for the development of a sports and recreation complex in Winnebago. Proposed development includes baseball and soccer fields, a playground area, sand volleyball courts, restrooms and parking.

l Village of Rockton in Winnebago County, $376,300, to acquire 60 acres of land fronting the Rock River to the north and Illinois 2 to the east. Future development will include soccer fields, baseball fields, a football field, two playground areas and a walking path. Development of the river frontage for canoeing, boating and fishing also is being considered.

l Byron Forest Preserve District in Ogle County, $270,500, to develop a 76-acre park with a pioneer theme. Development will include shelters, playgrounds, water splash playground, sand volleyball courts, basketball courts, access paths, lighting and landscaping. The park is just south of Byron on North German Church Road.

l Village of Cedarville in Stephenson County, $55,200, to develop a 5.83-acre site adjacent to the community center off West Cedarville Road. Development will include a new skateboard park, a sand play area, a walking path with fitness stations and modifications to the existing playground equipment.

l Village of Davis in Stephenson County, $103,100, to further develop Memory Park on Salisbury Street. Enhancements include playground equipment, restrooms, exercise path, in-line skating rink, the renovation of existing basketball courts and picnic shelter.

l McHenry County Conservation District, $383,000, to initially develop the Pleasant Valley Conservation Area, an 840-acre upland savanna and wetland complex west of Lakewood. The project includes the enhancement of a small fishing pond and the construction of hiking and horse trails, a shelter, restrooms and parking.

l Village of Waterman in DeKalb County, $222,700, the village will acquire through a voluntary land donation and redevelop 11.83-acre Lions Club Park. Development at the site includes a new playground and volleyball courts, skate park/rink, restrooms, a shelter and landscaping.

Here are area winners of capital grants to assist Illinois public museums totaling $36 million:

l Burpee Museum of Natural History, Rockford, $900,000, for “The Story of Jane” exhibit, to erect an exhibit of a recently discovered dinosaur.

l Discovery Center Museum, Rockford, $200,000, for exhibits capital improvement program. This project is to refurbish gallery space and to install a major new exhibit.

l Klehm Arboretum, Rockford, $205,000 for education facilities expansion. The project includes the addition of a classroom and a greenhouse in the Education Building.

l Midway Village and Museum Center, Rockford, $250,000, Preserving Our Agricultural Heritage, Historic Barn Restoration. This project includes the restoration of a circa 1850 barn to serve as an historical exhibit.

l Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum, Rockford, $100,000 for visitor center improvements. This project includes construction to complete the third floor to provide climate controlled collections storage, volunteer work space and an exhibit construction area.

l Ellwood House Museum, DeKalb, $100,000, for interior restoration, phase II. This project includes the restoration of the major rooms on the first and second floors of the mansion.

l Galena History Museum, Galena, $64,900 for old blacksmith shop renovation. The project is for structural renovations and a climate control system for the museum’s blacksmith shop.

On Dec. 13, the DNR also announced winners of its Schoolyard Habitat Action grants, which are funded by the Illinois Conservation Foundation and the Jadel Family Foundation.

Centennial School, Polo, in Ogle County, got a $600 grant for grades K-5, coordinated by Nicole Smith, to install two weather stations in an area where students will be able to gather weather information. Students will be able to experience hands-on activities relating to the science of weather including seasons, cycles, migrations, hibernation, rainfall and wind direction. An Internet link on the school Web site will be created so the community can access the city’s local weather.

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