State Park Campground Shutdown Irks Business Owners

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June 10, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

State red tape is cutting into vital summer revenue for many Marseilles, Ill., businesses.

The shutdown of Illini State Park's 102-site campground to repair a faulty sewage system has severed the revenue flow from campers who buy gas and supplies and frequent restaurants in town, reported.

With no estimate of when the repairs will happen, petitions are circulating at local businesses seeking prompt attention from the state.

"Every business in Marseilles depends on the camping season here," said Mike Jakupcak, the manager of the D & S Foods supermarket. "That's what gets you through the winter. Without it, I think everybody in town is hurting."

In April, the state announced that in order to repair Illini State Park's wastewater treatment system the campgrounds, flush toilets and concession stand would be shut down until at least May 23, although the northern Illinois park itself would remain open.

At that time the Illinois Department of Natural Resources said it hoped to have an emergency system in place as soon as possible so the facilities could reopen.

But now the IDNR said the closure has been extended at least through the end of June, with no estimate of when the repairs and reopening might take place.

"At this point we don't have a timetable of when it will be fixed," IDNR spokesman Chris McCloud told The Times. "We certainly appreciate what our campgrounds mean to the local economy at all of our state parks. Obviously we want to correct the problem quickly.

"I guess the best thing I can tell you is we are aware of the situation and we'll do what we can to get it open as quickly as possible. But there are certain procedures we have to follow based on state law and state rules, so we're following those.

"The first thing we have to do is an assessment that will specifically detail what has to be done to repair the sewage pumps. I believe that we're doing that this month so that we can get procurement procedures under way. Hopefully, once that's done, it will be fairly quick to get the repairs completed."

The petition says the park draws an estimated 700,000 visitors annually, bringing in $6,000 in taxes for the state and sales tax revenue for both state and the city.

At D & S Foods, 720 signatures were collected before new petition sheets were fetched.

"And that's just his petitions," said Catherine Strottner, office manager for the Illinois River Area Chamber of Commerce. "There are sheets out all over town. I'm sure we've got thousands of signatures."

Chamber President Ed Cavanaugh Jr. said the IDNR has not kept the community and merchants informed about the repair process.

As the operator of the concession stand in the park, CP's Ice Cream, Cavanaugh is frustrated not only by the lack of revenue but the lack of communication.

Cavanaugh understands the park sewage problem was known at the close of the season last year, but left unattended.

"I know if my toilet stopped working I would call a plumber right away, not wait six months," Cavanaugh said.

Typically, he said, his ice cream shop is open by Mother's Day. Now he does not know when it will open.

Even the Thursday, June 30, projection may be unrealistic, said Marseilles Mayor Patti Smith.

Smith has talked to state Sen. Sue Rezin and state Rep. Pam Roth, both Morris Republicans, as well as IDNR officials.

Smith was gratified officials were concerned, but did not infer the campgrounds would be open by June 30, rather that nothing would happen before June 30, when the state enters a new fiscal year.

"I am hoping they will do everything they can to help us, but they didn't indicate it would be soon," said Smith

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