$26M Stimulus Grant Transforms Corps Park
The massive improvement program that has been going on at Rend Lake in southern Ilinois is nearing completion and no one is happier about it than Lake Manager Jim Lynch, the Benton (Ill.) Evening News reported.
He reports that they are looking to the first part of April for the official ribbon-cutting. The $26 million received from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has been put to good use at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers facility, located 80 miles southeast of St. Louis.
The most noticeable and remarkable project has been the building of the huge visitor center and administration building complex at the west end of the dam. This facility will allow the concentration of personnel and visitor resources in one location, eliminating the need to separate the folks who operate the lake from those who maintain it and also provide a visitor center that can be open year-’round.
The original visitor center at the spillway area will be converted back to a day use shelter, which was the building’s original design. It will now be available to the public for reservation and be able to accommodate larger gatherings than any other shelter on the lake, with one of the most majestic views of the lake imaginable.
The administration/visitor center building is “green,” utilizing a geothermal heating and cooling system. Lynch is hopeful that staff can start to move into the building by the end of January and was going to meet with contractors on Monday to try to coordinate the exact schedule.
Lynch is aware that it is important to be able to complete a full move rather than a partial one to make sure all services will be up and running quickly. The old administration building is going to be razed because of its limited salvage value and virtually all of its capacity can be easily absorbed by the new facility.
The modern building will also be able to accommodate the offices of the maintenance staff now housed in “cubby holes” in the maintenance area just southwest of the new structure.
Lynch felt that having them in the building will be a plus.
“I’m really pleased with how hard the entire staff has worked during this period," he said.
It was obvious that the concentration of visitors because of last year’s closed facilities put extra pressure on all who work at the Corps of Engineers project.
The improvement to the campgrounds, both in site development and infrastructure improvements, will also be immediately noticeable to those who visit Gun Creek and South Marcum camping facilities this year.
There are now sewer restroom facilities in South Marcum and two shower houses replacing the existing one.
Campsites themselves have been improved in South Marcum, which already had a great layout plan, but now more parking has been added to some of the sites that were smaller.
The electrical service capacity at each site has been raised to 50 amps maximum instead of the previous 30-amp capacity available. These improvements, along with getting rid of the old "tank type" toilets, have raised the campsites to Type A status, both at South Marcum and Gun Creek, the campground closest to Interstate 57 and the Rend Lake Golf Complex.
Lynch said that he believes campers will really be impressed with the improvements to the campgrounds.
The hope is that the lake’s improvements will draw even more people to the area to visit a very special recreation area. There is one lake administrator who will be very happy indeed when all of the facilities are up and running smoothly.