Starved Rock concessionaire: Admission fee for state parks would be devastating economically

By Kathy Casstevens-Jasiek
Director of Marketing, Starved Rock Lodge

UTICA, Ill. — Keeping Illinois parks open to the public and free of charge is a major concern of Terry Cross, who has been the concessionaire at Starved Rock State Park in Utica, Ill., for the past 23 years.

Illinois House Bill 5789 authorizes the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to charge a vehicle admission fee for residents to use our state parks and lands.

Illinois State Park funds have suffered from years of legislative sweeps, yet this bill would not be exempt from a sweep. Many factors have led to the DNR budget crisis, but Cross believes paid admission is not the answer.

Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio have no park entrance fees. Iowa and Tennessee had park fees, but discontinued them. In 2003, the State of Washington enacted a $5-a-day parking fee, and admissions dropped 68 percent the following year.

Cross has studied other state’s policies and found that “Park attendance will drop dramatically and the economic impact could be devastating for the 324 parks and public lands in Illinois, local communities, business owners dependent on park traffic as well as on tourism in the state of Illinois.”

Furthermore, park fees could be considered a way to discriminate against low-income families.

In an effort to make the public and legislatures aware of the pitfalls of this proposal, Cross has submitted recommendations for their review.

It’s important for the public to know that free admission to the parks may no longer be available,” Cross concluded.

Posted April 12, 2012

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