Starved Rock State Park struggling to keep up with visitors

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Starved Rock State Park is struggling to keep up with the more than 10 million visitors that have come to the Illinois park in the last four years. | Starved Rock State Park via Facebook

LA SALLE — Starved Rock State Park is struggling to keep up with the more than 10 million visitors that have come to the Illinois park in the last four years.

The facilities and trails in Utica aren’t equipped to handle the traffic they get, said Kerry Novak, the park’s complex superintendent. The park faces a growing maintenance budget that’s difficult to support, he told The News Tribune.

Crews were recently dispatched to remove a large amount of tree limbs and branches that were washed ashore by recent floods.

“People who’ve been here 20 years cannot remember this much junk being dumped on us,” Novak said.

Park officials are waiting to see how state legislators will address the park’s budget concerns.

“It’s very difficult to keep up with everything,” Novak said. “There are 200 parks that (the state Department of Natural Resources) manages and generally Starved Rock State Park is kind of cornering the market on what they need for money, manpower, vehicles and things like that.”

Republican Rep. Jerry Long of Streator said he feels a sense of urgency to address the issue as the state deals with its ongoing fiscal problems.

“If we want to continue to host all of its visitors, we need proper funding for trail maintenance and, potentially, full-time trail crews,” he said. “We must preserve the natural beauty of the Illinois Valley by investing in these parks.”

Novak said the park may need to limit visitors or raise fees to decrease the amount of traffic coming through until more funding can be secured.

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