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Declining Funding for Popular State Park Prompts Group to Form

Updated: Monday, July 14 2014, 10:18 AM CDT
ILLINOIS -- You don't have to look very far to find budget problems, not in the state of Illinois. Finding budget solutions, much more of a challenge to take on. Newschannel at Nine's Rebekah Thurston tells us about the men forming a group to do just that for a popular state park. The Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area is one of the largest state parks, stretching 26 square miles, located just off State Route 125, but a lack of state funding is leaving holes in an already small budget. The Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area is a popular destination. It sees almost 800,000 visitors a year. "It's just a great place to enjoy the outdoors," said Matt Werner, a Cub Scout Leader and Virginia School Board President. One of the many draws to the park is it's educational value. "For cub scouts we frequently go out there for overnight camp outs... part of it is teaching kids citizenship, but also about respecting the outdoors," said Werner. Area schools also take the short drive to the park to show students the importance of conservation. But, unfortunately there's green everywhere in the park, except in the bank. "They've had to scale back their staff from ten full-time staff down to four," said Cass County Economic Development Director Dustin Fritsche. This, forcing Site Manager Mike Wickens to cut back on programs and maintenance. "They kind of do maintenance on a... what has to barely get done to keep the park open kind of thing," said Fritsche. Wickens also says there are a lots of programs the park could offer, but the funds to hire more staff are simply not there. That's why the Friends of Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area is being formed. "It would help to maybe bring back some of the things that he had to discontinue when the budgets were and the staff was let go," said Fritsche. They're asking for your help. But with so many holes left in the state's budget, why should you put your money or time into the park? "Natural resources are something that, if you don't conserve them, once they're gone, they're gone," said Werner. Plus, the park continually brings in revenue to the cities around it and Cass County, keeping the dollars local. A meeting will be held Saturday, July 26th at 1:00 P.M. at Shelter Three in the park. It is open to the public. It's at this meeting Fritsche hopes to find more people passionate about keeping the park up and running, and have the time to step up and take the reins on the project.Declining Funding for Popular State Park Prompts Group to Form

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