Weldon Springs, Moraine View not among rescued state parks


 Daily Pantagraph, Bloomington-Normal

 Saturday, November 22, 2008 8:50 AM CST

 SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. Rod Blagojevich has trimmed four state parks from the closure list,

 but two in Central Illinois weren’t among them.

 On Friday, administration officials said four of the original 11 parks slated for closure on Nov. 30

 as part of a budget cutting move had been spared. The parks that will remain open are:

 Gebhard Woods; Kickapoo; Channahon Parkway; and Hennepin Canal Parkway.

  Even though lawmakers sent Blagojevich a plan to keep all the parks open, the governor decided

  to shutter seven anyway. They include Weldon Springs near Clinton and Moraine View near LeRoy.

  Blagojevich is making no effort to keep any of the targeted historic sites open.

  Department of Natural Resources spokesman Chris McCloud said the state wanted to keep one

  of the targeted parks open in each region and chose to keep as many open as possible with the

  state’s available money.

  “There is enough money to keep these particular parks open,” he said.
  McCloud said he didn’t know what it would take to eventually reopen the others.
  “We’re just trying to take it one step at a time,” he said.

  On Friday afternoon, the state’s largest employees union had not been notified of the latest

  wrinkle in the governor’s budget strategy.

  American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees spokesman Anders Lindall said

  the union continues to believe there is enough money in the budget to keep all of the parks and

  historic sites open. “We’ll be disappointed with anything short of that,” Lindall said.

  The closure plan has been one of the more highly visible results of the state’s deep financial

  problems. Illinois isn’t alone; Florida might close 19 of its state parks next year.

  The decision to spare the four parks came a day after Blagojevich signed off on parts of a plan

  lawmakers sent him that was intended to keep 11 state parks and 14 state historic sites open

  past their planned closing date.

  Illinois lawmakers gave Blagojevich the power to skim money from a number of special state funds

  to pay for the plan. He said about $55 million of the $230 million they made available is not allowed

  to be used because of federal rules.

  State Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, said it was “disappointing” parks such as Moraine View

  would now close Nov. 30. He said lawmakers didn’t approve more money just so the governor could

  pick and choose which parks to keep open. “It just most likely sets up another attempt that we’ll

  have to right the wrong,” Brady said.

  Among the historic sites, the David Davis Mansion in Bloomington will remain open after Nov. 30

  despite being scheduled for closure because a private foundation has offered to pick up the bill.

  A spokesman for the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency said the state is in talks with groups to

  keep other sites open, too, but nothing has been finalized.

  Spokesman David Blanchette said the state hasn’t yet planned on how to eventually reopen the

  facilities. But they’re working on it, he said. “We want to be ready if and when that occurs,”

  Blanchette said.

  This week, a small group of lawmakers floated another idea to keep the sites open. They want to

  allow local governments or interest groups to lease the sites in order to operate and maintain them

  while the state gets its finances in order.