A Walk in the Park a Source of Revenue for the IDNR

My wife and I went for our usual walk around Silver Springs State Park on Sunday. Living only a 5 minute drive away, we find ourselves there 2 to 5 times a week.

Sunday the parking lot on the east end was full, we got the last spot. What a change from our weekday walks here when we have the whole place to ourselves. People have become weekenders when it comes to getting out, they should consider changing that.

A number of families were hanging out having picnics. A half dozen boats were out on the lake being paddled or rowed. A few fishermen were hanging out dunking worms.

We ran into one family and compared notes with them on how many monarch caterpillars were being found. We suddenly didn't feel so odd walking up to milkweed plants and checking the underside of leaves. We're not the only ones out here doing it.

On our walk we ran into a Cub Scout Den going for a hike, almost 50 kids and parents. More people were walking the shore along the Fox River. From our vantage point we could see a few parking lots on the west end that also looked full.

Off in the distance the sound of shotguns could be heard at the shooting range. Based on the shooting, there were quite a few up there. I have no doubt there were a few taking advantage of the archery range, there usually is.

We didn't see any horses out here this time, but there are times when a couple of parking lots off the main road are full of horse trailers.

Did I mention the few fishermen? Couldn't have been more than 10.

And yet, they were probably the only ones that paid something in order to take advantage of all the different things available at this state park.

You have to have a fishing license.

I think it's time to change this.

Over the past 10 years the general revenue portion of DNR’s budget has fallen over 50% - from $100M to $48M - and this is the portion of the budget that funds state parks, law enforcement, museums and regulatory functions. I think the average user of the states parks doesn't know or notice this. It's only a matter of time till that changes with the cutting of services or the closing of some facilities.

I remember reading not too long ago that Illinois was considering charging entrance fees to state parks much like what is done in Wisconsin. If you've never looked, they're not unreasonable.

Wisconsin DNR Park Fees

I already buy over $50 worth of fishing and hunting licenses every year. If Illinois implemented a fee structure like that in Wisconsin, I would gladly pay another $25 for a sticker that would allow me into any of the state parks for the year. Based on how often I go to fish and hunt, and how often my wife and I go just for a walk, it comes out to less then 50 cents per visit.

I'm sure it would take a few years to implement a program like this, a lot of work would need to be done building check in gates at each of the parks alone. I'm sure there are some park properties where this simply won't work, but over the long haul, revenue would be coming in from people using the state parks that goes above and beyond just anglers and hunters.

To me it's a very simple question that needs to be put to those that don't fish or hunt, but like to visit the state parks.

What is Illinois' natural resources worth to you?

If you're like my wife and I and it comes out to less than 50 cents per visit over the course of a year, I would say that's money well spent.

A Walk in the Park

I guess I do spend a lot of time there.


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  • I rarely visit state parks, and if they charged me to get in, I'd visit even less.

    Too much public access out there to pay extra to see the same things.

    Prairie plants, ugly birds, useless bugs, fishless waters.

    Bah humbug.

  • Okay then Mr. Grumpy. I have a mile long stretch of the Fox that is virtually inaccessible any other way other than through Silver Springs. That right there makes it worth it to me.

    Between me and SS, there is only one other small stretch that is publicly accessible. That makes about 6 miles that you can't get anywhere near unless you float down in a canoe.

    You should go live in Chicago, right up you're alley. They've tried to kill off all those things you mention.

  • In reply to Ken G:

    I hate the city... damn crooks won't get another nickel out of me.

    I was less upset about the money than I was about the idea that giving ANY gov't organization more money might help.

    Until we change the way the gov't works, were just flushing our money down the toilet.

    ... flush....

  • Ken G.
    Great article. What backwoods grumpy pants fails to realize is that without charging obvious entrance fees, your overhead is marginalized thus reducing cost of efficiency. In other words, exactly what you had said about IDNR. Grew up in Michigan, where entrance fees are common and required, have been for as long as I can remember, which is over 30 years. I first moved here and was shocked at the ability to enter and exit freely within these parks and as usual or should I say business as usual, people here in IL become complacent and could care less until good ole Blago wants to cut major funding to parks and close more than half of the beautiful ones. Its common economic sense. There is nothing wrong with charging an entrance fee as well as having it paid via your tax dollars, while MDNR has had its problems in the past the thought of cutting entrance fees, to my knowledge has never been discussed. It generates revenue that the federal dollars can't always accommodate for. As for public access? I haven't visited nearly enough of this state to make an educating opinion on but in the surrounding collar counties of Chicago it is far and few between, not too mention that ant of this so called public access is worth it value in nature. It's not like hiking into Manistee National Park via a two track and never paying a dime, which is what hundreds of people do every year and that is God's country and well worth it. Every hunter in one way or another has is disagreements with the DNR and the "gov'ment" but the reality is, they (State and federal govt) are trying to preserve without fail. For both the visitors and the maintainers.

  • In reply to illinimsuedu:

    Thanks for the comment. You hit it on the head when you blamed Blago, anyone that blames the current administration for IDNR shortcomings hasn't been paying attention.

    I've talked to a number of people recently, from Illinois, who vacation in Wisconsin and Michigan and they never think twice about paying the entrance fees to their parks. They don't have a problem with paying one here. If there is a reluctance to implement this, I haven't heard anything.

    It's a very simple and small fee that has the potential of generating a few million dollars for the IDNR, which needs it desperately. The fees need to get done, the sooner the better.

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