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Daily Newscasts

Governor Puts Seven State Parks on Chopping Block

November 26, 2008

Springfield, IL – Despite the protests of thousands, seven Illinois state parks will close on Sunday. Lawmakers restored $220 million dollars cut from the state budget and appropriated a couple of million to fund 11 state parks - but Governor Rod Blagojevich has decided only four should stay open. Executive director of the Illinois Environmental Council Jonathan Goldman says the governor has it wrong.

"His office is saying, as the economic condition has continued to deteriorate, that even the appropriated amount of money wasn't going to be enough. The amount of money we are looking at is at least two million dollars. It's more than enough money to keep the parks running."

Goldman says lawmakers need to develop a long-term funding solution for the Department of Natural Resources.

"We're looking at a department that's been cut to the bone through attrition, layoffs and funding cuts. At this rate, there's not going to be much of a department left, or a state park system."

Goldman says he's concerned because, instead of protecting the state's natural resources, the money is being used to plug the budget gap. Goldman says outdoor recreation provides a big boost to the state economy."

"Closing these parks is only going to hurt local businesses, it's going to put people out of work, both park employees and workers at the businesses. In these economic conditions that's certainly not something we should be looking at."

The governor's office says the closures will help to prevent future layoffs.

The Department of Natural Resources estimates about 45 million visits were made to state parks in Illinois last year.

Mary Kuhlman/Steve Powers, Public News Service - IL