As elected directors of the board of
the Starved Rock Historical & Educational Foundation, we are
outraged at the layoff of the national resource coordinator, the
resulting elimination of two seasonal site interpreters and the
reduction in force of other park staff at Starved Rock State Park.
The Starved Rock Historical &
Educational Foundation is an Illinois not-for-profit corporation.
The purpose of the foundation is to facilitate the visitor center
program, which includes education, conservation and recreation. We
raise moneys through membership, donations and profits from our 100
percent volunteer-run LeRocher Book Shop.
During 2004, the foundation's
volunteer program, with over 115 participants logging 4,731 hours,
also provided hike leaders, trail walkers, information desk workers
and raised over $15,000 for benches around the visitor center,
materials, equipment and programs.
Starved Rock State Park is the jewel of the Illinois State Park
system and a major source of revenue for the state and LaSalle
County. When Gov. Blagojevich was in Utica after the 2004 tornado,
he promised to help rebuild the city and bring back tourists. These
cuts are contrary to the promise he made to the people of Utica. It
makes no sense when other organizations are striving to promote
tourism in this area that the Department of Natural Resources has to
cut programs and staff at one of the major tourist attractions in
the Midwest. This park is not merely a state park but an
international attraction. In the last five years visitors have come
from all 50 states and over 84 countries from six continents!
When planning the $4,500,000,
12,000-square-foot visitor center, it was agreed by all, including
those in Springfield, that it would be staffed with three site
interpreters, three seasonal interpreters, one clerical and one
maintenance person. That staffing plan was never implemented.
Starved Rock has lost six of 21 full-time employees since 2000. The
visitor center will lose three of its four staff as of Jan. 14 and
will be down to a single employee!
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The Band-Aid approach of taking
others away from their already understaffed positions and bringing
them in to staff the visitor center is ludicrous! The loss of the
positions at the park, which limit hours and personnel, will have a
direct effect on more than 240,000 visitors, including all school
groups, guided hikes and special events. Of the 87 Department of
Natural Resources layoffs, which are tragic, this layoff will have a
greater effect than the other 86 layoffs combined.
Since the visitor center was opened
in 2002, at least three paid positions have served the educational,
informational and safety needs of up to 6,000 visitors a day. A
single employee in the visitor center cannot adequately meet the
needs of the public. Special events cannot be run with this
reduction in staff.
Volunteers are here to supplement,
not replace permanent staff!
Therefore, foundation members and volunteers will not be
available to work special events until the needs and safety of the
public are met by reinstating the positions at the visitor center.
Yes, the state of Illinois is in
dire straits, but an exception needs to be made at Starved Rock
State Park. Please contact our government officials.
Board of directors
Starved Rock Foundation
Pam Grivetti, president
Shirley Pierson, secretary
Kathy Despain, treasurer
Cindy Hopps, director
Brenda Schroeder, director