Mount Sterling, Ill. — To a number of hunters, it’s an ironic “double whammy.”
A new state law that will be implemented next year will force hunters and others who operate ATVs on public land to purchase a permit sticker, proceeds from which will go to develop ATV parks and trails in the state.
Herein lies the rub: such a park currently being proposed in west-central Illinois would displace a popular public hunting site.
Hunters and landowners near the Buckhorn Unit of Siloam Springs State Park are taking exception to the proposed ATV park, which would be funded mostly with federal money via DNR’s Recreational Trails Program.
The Buckhorn Unit, located six miles south of Timewell off Route 24, about nine miles north of Route 104, contains roughly 2,200 acres of huntable land in Brown County.
It was acquired by the state in 2001 and is used by deer, turkey, dove, rabbit, squirrel and raccoon hunters.
Hunting groups are strongly opposed to the notion of the site being used for the ATV park because of the scarcity of public hunting land in the state.
“We [Illinois] are already ranked at the bottom when it comes to public hunting access, and now to take away from that? It doesn’t make sense,” Lynn Wilcox, president of the Illinois Bowhunters Society, said.
The Illinois Federation for Outdoor Resources, a coalition of sportsmen’s groups, is not necessarily in opposition to ATV parks – as long as they don’t interfere with hunting opportunities.
Logistics of the Buckhorn site are also in question.
“After looking at the idea, we don’t oppose the effort of finding places for ATV and other off road vehicle to recreate but, choosing the Buckhorn site would drastically displace hunting opportunities there,” Jim McFarlane, vice president of IFOR, said. “There is another major inconvenience that I noticed when visiting the site a few weeks ago; major road access in case someone needed to be brought from an accident for medical care.”
IFOR and hunting groups also question why the Buckhorn site was chosen. McFarlane noted that when the IFOR board of directors was given a presentation this summer, it looked like there were many other potential sites for an ATV park reviewed “that would not upset and displace hunters.”
Amy Madigan with DNR’s Illinois Trails Outreach, explained during a Brown County informational meeting in August that the agency had looked at several sights like Buckhorn for six months.
“We have looked at about 18 sights, existing DNR sights,” Madigan said. “Buckhorn was elevated because of its uses and where it was located through our very extensive review process.”
As this issue of Illinois Outdoor News went to press, DNR had not made a final decision on building the ATV park at the Buckhorn site. If a decision is made to build it at the Buckhorn Unit, construction could begin by next April.
Illinois does not have a designated riding park for ATVs.
“Hunters’ don’t have an issue with building a site, it’s about where they build it,” Wilcox said.