Parts of Johnson’s Park closed due to state budget problems
Gatehouse News Service
Kewanee, Ill. — After a decade of budget and staff reductions the Illinois Department of Natural Resources faces unprecedented cuts this summer which have brought changes at Johnson Sauk Trail State Recreation Area.
While the park remains open, certain areas will remain closed to the public.
Tim Schweizer, public service administrator for the IDNR, confirmed Thursday that a closure notice remains in effect for Lakeshore Loop Road in the park until further notice.
The gate is closed across the entrance to the road, with a sign that says “Warning Minimal Maintenance Area — Hazardous Areas May Exist.”
The road circles the park’s 58-acre lake. Along the road are three day use areas, a non-reservable shelter and the Blackhawk Group Camp.
Also, the shower building in Chief Keokuk Campground is closed and there is no water available in the campground.
All camping will be priced as Class B/E (electricity and vehicle access) and Class D (tent or primitive sites).
Schweizer said the lack of staff is the primary reason for the limited access to areas that can’t be maintained.
“The site itself is open but certain parts are off limits to the public,” said Schweizer.
“With funding depleted, the IDNR is facing similar closure notices in parks statewide. The budget cuts are jeopardizing our ability to keep portions of the state parks maintained and in some cases responsible for the closure of entire parks.”
Site manager Melinda Kitchens is now the only employee at the park.
Driving through the open areas of the park, visitors will see changes in the maintenance, particularly, limited mowing in areas which in the past were regularly maintained.
Recreational opportunities remain available to the public near the front section of the park. The lake is accessible to boaters and fisherman from the marina area.
Kitchens said the day use areas near the front of the park will remain open, along with the campgrounds, Ryan’s Round Barn and the three-acre pond near the barn, the marina and the park restaurant and concession.
According to Schweizer, park visitors can also keep updated on closure notices by visiting the IDNR website at http://www.dnrillinois.gov .
For more information on the local park contact the Johnson Sauk Trail State Recreation office at 853-5589.
- House Bill 5789, which proposes establishing admission fees for state parks within Illinois, is awaiting a state Senate vote.
The bill was filed in mid-February by State Rep. JoAnn Osmond of Antioch, and co-sponsored by State Rep. Frank Mautino of Spring Valley. The bill passed the House 81-29 on March 28.
Illinois is one of only seven states that do not charge a park admission fee.