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Starved Rock fee proposal postponed

Sen. Rezin's bill falls 1 vote short from advancing

A bill allowing the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to implement a parking fee at Starved Rock State Park didn't get enough votes on the full Senate floor Wednesday to proceed.

Sponsored by state Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, Senate Bill 1310 — designed to fund safety and upkeep at Starved Rock — received 29 votes, needing 30 to advance. Rezin asked to postpone the bill for consideration, meaning she can recall it again for vote if she wishes.

Rezin put an amendment on the bill carving out La Salle County residents from having to pay the parking fee. This drew concern from lawmakers who voted no, Rezin said.

“Unfortunately during floor debate, I heard concerns from my senate colleagues about my amendment to the bill that would exempt La Salle County residents from paying a parking fee,” Rezin said in a press statement. “I added this provision to the bill because local residents are already on the hook to pay for the increased impact Starved Rock has on our roads and first responders.”

Rezin pitched the parking fee as a means "to help the park stay clean, maintain its trails and provide additional parking.”

Rezin noted Starved Rock sees more than 2 million visitors annually, and if it were a national park, it would rank 11th in the amount of visitors it sees.

Starved Rock officials have said they need alternative revenue to fund the park.

The park saw an estimated 2.5 million visitors last year and 3.5 million in 2017. The estimation comes as a result of detecting the number of vehicles entering the park at the west entrance and lodge. Each vehicle is counted as 5.5 people. The park is also expanding after the state acquired an additional 2,629 acres of property near Oglesby.

According to how the bill was constructed, 80 percent of the fees collected would have been allocated for infrastructure purposes of Starved Rock and 20 percent of the fees collected would have been allocated for public safety.

The bill had proposed the fees to take effect in 2020.

“We are so fortunate to have such a beautiful park in our region,” Rezin said. “We must do what we can to maintain this asset and keep it attractive so that visitors continue to want to come here.”

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