DNR says it will shutter parks, trim staff Nov. 1
Springfield - DNR announc-ed Aug. 28 that it will close 11 state parks and lay off 39 or 40 employees before the end of the year.
Details of the closings were still being sorted out as this issue of Illinois Outdoor News went to press, but the parks slated for closing effective Nov. 1 are Illini State Park, Hennepin Canal Parkway State Park, Wolf Creek State Park, Castle Rock State Park, Hidden Springs State Forest, Lowden State Park, Channahon Parkway State Park, Gebhard Woods State Park, Kickapoo State Park, Moraine View State Park and Weldon Springs State Park.
According to DNR, jobs being cut include 25 site technicians, four park rangers, three office coordinators, three site assistant superintendents, one part-time office associate, three office coordinators (two of them part-time), one site security officer, one natural resource coordinator and one natural resource specialist.
It's not clear which parks would lose which jobs.
It's been about six weeks since Gov. Rod Blagojevich announced he would be cutting $14 million from DNR's budget, but the state's outdoorsmen and women had spent much of that time waiting for word on what would stay and what would go.
Some of the state's hunters, including Leonard Wass, of suburban Chicago, believed DNR's office staff may already have taken a rather large whack.
Repeating a common complaint,_Wass said he has yet to receive his muzzleloader deer hunting permit, even though the DNR Web site confirmed he was a successful recipient in the spring lottery drawing.
Wass can't seem to get hold of anyone in Springfield.
"I called for three weeks and the phone just rang and rang," he said on Aug. 26. "Not even a recording. No one answered."
Shortly after Blagojevich announced budget reductions in July, lawmakers and nature groups predicted the cuts decrease in the quality and availability of services not only in state offices but at state parks and hunting areas, too.
Meanwhile, as DNR staff and consumers waited, state budget cuts are gradually taking effect in other state agencies. Health departments across Illinois started cutting and laying people off, especially in substance abuse treatment centers.
State budget cuts also put a $3 million rip in grants for Illinois' community colleges. And on Aug. 26 the State Comptroller announced he was laying off staff due to state budget cuts.
DNR operates with a $210 million budget, of which roughly 20 percent is comprised by a general fund. It's from that general fund where the $14 million cut is set to come from.
State Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, told the Southern Illinoisan in late August that DNR was going to have to make some real tough decisions.
"The question is, what gets cut? Do we not mow the grass? We are already not doing that in some places," Bost told the Carbondale-based newspaper.
"The problem is we passed a budget that's $2.2 billion out of whack."