Illinois’ state parks are being pitched on the basis of their economic benefit.
Everyone is fighting in Springfield to hold onto state funding, and advocates for parks are making their case with dollar figures.
“Our studies show that for every dollar the state invests, there are $6 that comes back to the Illinois economy from open spaces and natural areas,” says Jen Walling, director of Environment Illinois, who pegs the benefit of parks at $3.2 billion.
The Bureau of Land Management in the Department of Natural Resources manages 345 state parks, wildlife refuges and natural areas that attract 44 million visitors per year.
Funding for the department fell from $30 million in 2002 to $9 million in 2013, producing a backlog of maintenance requests. A $2 increase in vehicle registration fees, added last year, began to recover some of that.