Rockford's Independent Newspaper

Illinois state parks face mountain of deferred maintenance

By Cole Lauterbach
The Center Square

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois’ state parks are getting what the state’s chief steward of public lands said is some much-needed attention as part of the new capital construction plan.

That total statewide construction bill will cost taxpayers $45 billion in increased taxes and fees over six years. The money will come from the state’s gas tax – which was recently doubled – and increased driving fees, among other sources.

With more 300 state parks in Illinois, Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Colleen Callahan said there has been a lot of deferred maintenance from over the years.

“A billion dollars of deferred maintenance over that period of time – it just continues to accumulate and now we’re chipping away at that,” Callahan said.

The $45 billion capital plan included money for state parks, Callahan said. The agency is starting to address some of the deferred needs.

“Making sure that the road entrance is well maintained and graded, that we can do new roofs, that we can actually hire staff now to make sure that we have a path to sufficient staffing,” Callahan said. “We’re not there yet.”

The bigger projects will take longer, she said.

“The major projects require engineering and they require a lot of pieces to the step so that we can actually get to the construction,” Callahan said. “These major projects have to go through biddings and procurements and it’s a longer process than most anyone would like. The most important thing is is that now we can begin this process and before we couldn’t even do that.”

Callahan said the Illinois Department of Natural Resources is starting to chip away at the $1 billion maintenance backlog, but couldn’t give a timeline on when projects would start or be completed.

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