Seven state parks to close next weekend

By Ryan Keith
Peoria Journal Star
Last update Nov 21, 2008 @ 09:22 PM

SPRINGFIELD Seven state parks will still close next weekend, even though Gov. Rod
Blagojevich and state lawmakers have approved money to keep them open, the Blagojevich
administration said Friday.

Blagojevich originally targeted 11 state parks to close Nov. 30. Lawmakers approved $230
million in new spending to prevent those park closings and a variety of other cuts, and the
governor approved most of that restored spending Thursday.

But Blagojevich spokeswoman Katie Ridgway said Friday afternoon that only four of those
11 state parks will remain open: Hennepin Canal Parkway State Park in Sheffield,
Channahon Parkway State Park in Channahon, Gebhard Woods State Park in Morris
and Kickapoo State Park in Oakwood.

Those parks were spared because they were in each of the three Department of Natural
Resources regions affected by closures, three of them were connected to trails and Kickapoo
offered several forms of recreation, Ridgway said.

A spokesman for the union representing state employees at the parks said layoffs should
stop and parks kept open because money clearly is set aside for that reason.
"The sole purpose of these funds is to prevent the layoffs and closures," said Anders Lindall
of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31.
But the Blagojevich administration says it's not that simple.

Even though $2.1 million was set aside to keep all the parks open, poor economic conditions
and lack of available money forced the other seven to be shuttered, Ridgway said. Shortfalls
in other DNR funds for parks are forcing the administration to go ahead with closings.
"It's just understanding the larger picture of a $2 billion deficit and still needing to find the
places where we can make reductions," Ridgway said.
Details for how the parks will be closed and workers affected are still being worked out, she said.

Other parts of state government were grappling with the outcome of Blagojevich's budget
action Thursday. Layoffs were rescinded for state child care workers, but human services workers
will still be let go Nov. 30. Thirteen state historic sites also will close that day.
Substance abuse treatment centers throughout Illinois celebrated the restoration of $55 million in
state funding, but with some caution.

Sara Moscato Howe, CEO of the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association, said
centers are thankful after having to lay off workers and cut services since losing funding in July.
But it will take time to rehire workers and get the system back up to full speed, Moscato
Howe said, and some concern remains about future cuts.
"It's a good day for substance abuse treatment in Illinois," Moscato Howe said. "We've still
got our work cut out for us."

Blagojevich stung his fellow constitutional officers by again cutting tens of millions of dollars
of money for their offices. They've all used layoffs, furlough days, hiring freezes and other moves so far.

Ridgway said the governor had to cut those expenses because of a money shortage.
"We needed to focus on what the core services were," Ridgway said.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office called Blagojevich's veto "petty politics" because money used
to restore the cuts is generated through litigation from the office and can only be used there.
"His explanation for the veto is false," Madigan chief of staff Ann Spillane said in a written statement.

Secretary of State Jesse White did not expect the money for his office to be rejected and would
need to take more action if further cuts are made, spokesman Dave Druker said.

Doug Finke contributed to this report. Ryan Keith can be reached at (217) 788-1518