T. Richard Day can look out his dining room window and see Chief Blackhawk — “The Eternal Indian.” He was one of a few dozen people who spoke out about Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s recent decision to close 11 state parks and 14 state historic sites to save money on the state’s budget. The park closings would be effective Nov. 1, while some historic sites would close Oct. 1.
T. Richard Day can look out his dining room window and see Chief Blackhawk — “The Eternal Indian.”
When Day lifts his 3-year-old grandson onto the dinner table to see the enormous statue at Lowden State Park, the boy says in a tiny voice, “Papa, dere’s da guy.”
“We don’t want to see the guy, our Blackhawk, go to waste,” Day announced Wednesday night.
He was one of a few dozen people who spoke out about Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s recent decision to close 11 state parks and 14 state historic sites to save money on the state’s budget. The park closings would be effective Nov. 1, while some historic sites would close Oct. 1.
The meeting, held at the Oregon Coliseum, was standing room only as several hundred people crowded into the gym.
State Sens. Tim Bivins, R-Dixon, and Brad Burzynski, R-Sycamore, addressed the crowd before opening the mike for people to share stories and ask questions about the closings.
“This doesn’t have to happen and shouldn’t happen,” Bivins said. “We are here to keep our parks open.”
Blagojevich needs to look at the economic effect on the community before deciding to cut state parks and historic sites, Burzynski said.
It costs $4.9 million to run all the state historic sites and parks — $2.1 million for the parks and $2.8 million for the historic sites.
Bivins pointed out that much of the park tourism — 400,000 visitors to Castle Rock last year — comes from Chicago and its suburbs.
Amy Trimble, chair of the planning commission for Oregon, said the city needs tourism from the parks to keep local businesses alive.
“This is our quality of life,” she said.
By 6 p.m., Trimble helped to collect 3,600 signatures for the petition, which states that Castle Rock and Lowden state parks contribute to the quality of life for Oregon residents and the half-million-plus annual visitors. She had hoped for 1,000 signatures and was overwhelmed with the support for the parks.
By 6:25 p.m., Trimble presented Bivins with 3,842 signatures, plus more than 42 signatures from area businesses she spoke with about the parks’ closing.
About 45 minutes into the meeting, state Rep. Jerry Mitchell, R-Sterling, sent Bivins a message. Earlier Wednesday, the Illinois House voted to restore hundreds of millions of dollars worth of budget cuts, including money to allow all historic sites and state parks to remain open. The state Senate must still act.
“They must have heard the voices down in Springfield,” Bivins told the crowd.
Denny Halgren of Dixon was impressed with the turnout for the meeting.
“I thought I’d be one of a very few people,” he said. “I’m proud of this community.”
During the open mike portion of the meeting, several people said they visited the parks as children and now take their own kids or grandkids to them.
One woman suggested it would cost more money to keep people out than to let them into the parks. Another man said the governor needs to be reminded that he is a servant of the people, and closing the parks is not serving the people.
In his turn at the mike, Day told attendees that political affiliation doesn’t matter in this case.
“It’s not a Republican issue, it’s not a Democratic issue, it’s not a governor issue,” Day said. “It’s a people issue, and we’re the people.”
Cathy Bayer can be reached at (815) 987-1369 or firstname.lastname@example.org.