A message from Kathy Casstevens, Marketing Director (Starved Rock Lodge & Conference Center)
@SenatorRezin (Sue Rezin) Tweeted on July 9: “As many of you know, Starved Rock has been dealing with issues of overcrowding, people parking on the side of the road and visitor littering. It was reported that the park had over 360,000 visitors in June. That is the 2nd largest total in park history. She then said, “There are concerns that July is on pace to match or exceed that total, which will only compound the ongoing issues. The park continues to need additional resources to deal with the large crowds & the upkeep of its trails to ensure that future generations can enjoy our prized park.”
Senator Rezin’s Tweets are true and we at Starved Rock Lodge are very concerned. Earlier this year, we launched a campaign called “For the Love of Starved Rock” with a goal of collecting donations which would allow us to try to fix some of the problems we are dealing with. But, that came to a screeching halt with the COVID-19 pandemic. Starved Rock Lodge & State Park were closed for 65 consecutive days. When the park reopened on May 29th, we were excited welcome visitors once again, but we were fearful that the three issues that Senator Rezin tweeted about would be worse than ever before because people all over the world had been ordered to stay-at-home and their longing for a place of natural wonder was greater than ever before. So, let’s look at each of the three major issues. First, to address the problem of overcrowding the overflow parking lot was expanded thanks to the Illinois DNR, allowing for 300 additional cars to park here. Next, visitors were encouraged to visit other parks in the area (Buffalo Rock, Illini and Matthiessen State Parks. And, IDNR posts encouraged people to visit the park earlier or later in the day to avoid being turned away. The second issue of people parking on the side of the road was also addressed by the Conservation Police and has seemed to improve. The third issue of littering in the park is an unnecessary one and perhaps the easiest to fix. Over the past 10 years, there has been a significant reduction in the staff that manages this popular destination. It was because of this that it became more of a responsibility of the people who love Starved Rock to keep it clean. As a lifelong Girl Scout, I live by the rule “Take only memories, leave only footprints.” Another well-known hiker saying is “pack it in, pack it out.” This mean if you bring a water bottle into the park with you, take it out when you leave. If everyone would do this, we could greatly improve this problem. The Starved Rock Cleanup Crew mobilized in July of 2017 and, since that time, they have done a remarkable job of picking up trash throughout Starved Rock State Park. However, some of the visitors that have come here recently do not understand the history of this great place or the need for them to act responsibly. For this reason, we need everyone’s help to change the culture. That is the key. We need to teach our children and all those around us to respect this national treasure. Our goal is to preserve and protect this and all state parks for future generations to enjoy. So, please join me and bring a trash bag with you when you come here. Follow the park rules and be kind and respectful for the good of all of us. Thank you.