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State Parks May Soon Begin Charging For Admission

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A stretch of the Illinois River running through Starved Rock State Park. (Credit: Illinois Department Of Natural Resources)

A stretch of the Illinois River running through Starved Rock State Park. (Credit: Illinois Department Of Natural Resources)

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UPDATED 03/26/12 6:17 a.m.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) — A bill approved by the Illinois House of Representatives Monday would require state residents to pay up to $25 to enter state parks.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Dave Dahl reports, currently, only state parks with beaches carry any charge, requiring $1 for using the beach. But the money raised with an across-the-board charge would be used to help maintain state parks, which have faced years of neglect because of the budget crisis.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Dave Dahl reports

The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. JoAnn Osmond (R-Antioch) says the budget of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources has been cut drastically over the years – so much so that the parks are no longer well-maintained.

She said of the three state parks in her district, one – the Adeline Jay Geo-Karis Illinois Beach State Park in Zion – has been closed since July because of more than 1,000 downed trees.

“This is only a user fee,” she stressed. “This is only for people who come and use the parks.”

But not all the details of the bill have been worked out.

“People who go into the park to hunt – they already have a fee for the pheasants and for the deer,” said Rep. John Cavaletto (R-Salem). “Will they have to pay a double fee?”

“What we’re understanding right now is that the fee will be for everyone, but those who take snowmobiles or fishing or whatever the case may be, would have a lesser fee,” she said.

Osmond says the plan would raise $8 million or more. It would feature an annual sticker for state residents.

Several states in the Midwest already charge admission fees to their state parks.

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