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House passes park entry fees

Tue, March 27, 2012

The Illinois House voted 81-29 on Monday in favor of legislation that would establish admission fees for state parks.

House Bill 5789 would allow the state to charge annual fees for vehicle stickers for park entry, as well as daily admission fees for pedestrians or drivers without annual passes.

Rep. JoAnn Osmond, R-Antioch is sponsor of the bill. She said money is needed for upkeep at parks.

“I know it’s very difficult for the members of this assembly to vote for a fee, but please keep in mind that this is a user fee, and the people that pay this fee will be the people that love nature, love to go to the parks,” Osmond told the Chicago Tribune.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources supports the bill, as does Gov. Pat Quinn, at least according to a spokesperson.


Watch park attendance plummet after they pass this. You think people are going to have birthday parties or family reunions in our parks if this goes through? They might as well pull all the playground equipment out and bulldoze all the pavilions. Freakin ridiculous. My hunting and fishing license money ain’t enough? I already have to use public land because it is so hard to find a place to hunt or fish anymore because of money. My kids will be disappointed when I tell them we can’t go to one of our favorite fishing spots anymore.

Posted by illin on March 27

I am kinda in favor of this.  We have Jubilee State Park right by us that we use it a lot with our kids.  I think it will keep the park for the people who want to enjoy it and not abuse it.  Plus hopefully this will direct funds to where they are actually needed like the state parks.

Posted by MattS on March 27

On one hand I agree with MATTS on maybe keeping the riff raff out,I filled two plastic shopping bags monday morning at my “secret” bank fishing spot at local state park. On the other hand I have “no faith” that the greedy politicians wont raid this fund like any other too line thier pockets and screw the taxpayer.

Posted by mohican on March 27

My family and I too have been to Jubilee, usually just out for a drive, but correct me if I’m wrong, but won’t this require PAYING someone to man a gate to collect the admission?  Does what I’m thinking/saying make sense?

Posted by bradcrisco on March 27

I think it is funny that y’all think that charging a fee will keep the rif raff out. Most people can’t keep them off their private property you think the state will be able to?

What it might do is keep the guy who may go fishing a couple times a year or the guy who has been pushed off all the private ground he had permission to hunt and now has to hunt public ground from participating in the outdoors. Many of these kinds of people will be pushed out of the sport just because they can’t see paying another fee.

I hear so much about take a kid fishing, take a kid hunting. This right here is legislation that I guarantee you will keep some children from being introduced to the outdoors. No question about it. Is that what we want? Go ahead and support this if you want.

Posted by illin on March 27

I agree it won’t stop all the rif raf and it will stop some people who actually want to enjoy the park.  It has MANY downfalls.  As long as they don’t ask some stupid price for a year pass, I will buy one. 

Brad, I would imagine they would just have a ranger making the rounds every once in a while checking everyone.

Posted by MattS on March 27

I suppose…I guess when it floated around the brain, all I was seeing was increase fee to pay the attendant…gotta have an attendant to collect the fee.  Kind of like the kid that has to have the job to pay for the car..yet has to have the car to go to the job.  Sorry for the ramble confused

Posted by bradcrisco on March 27

in my home state of nebraska they have required a $25 entry permit for state parks for years, PLUS a $28 annual fishing license. i think its ridiculous. over $50 just to go fishing at a state park!

Posted by t_hrms on March 27

I wonder if these entrance fee monies will actually get put to good use and go back into the parks to help with overall daily costs….or if it will go back into the “genral fund” to help offset our state’s huge debts!

The money will probably go to build new playgrounds and basketball courts around the Chicago area!!!

Posted by FULLDRAW on March 28

You’ll probably drop a envelope with cash through a slot in a box!

And Fulldraw may be right on the money!

Posted by walmsley on March 28

There is a state park that we camp at several times a year. If we have to start paying entry fees to the state park then the state is going to lose the fees we pay to camp. It will be COE or private campgrounds from now on. The COE campground fees are cheaper than state campground fees anyway.

Posted by flint on March 28

My fear is similar to others.  Is this a sweepable fund?  If this money has any chance of reaching the General Fund, then it becomes a tax on the outdoor lovers simply to help with Illinois’ spending/debt woes.
-Darin DeNeal

Posted by shootist on March 28

My guess is that the parks will have a volunteer attendant much like they have a Jubilee right now.  They have someone who is allowed to camp there all year for free, but that person has to collect fees and check people in.  Julbilee has one such person at their camping area, and another at the equestrian area. 

Personally, I don’t like the fees.  Not a chance the money will stay in the right place.  Not a chance.  Remember the LOTTO, that money was supposed to go to education.  It never did.  It goes into the general fund.  Same as our hunting and fishing license monies.

Posted by Treehugger on March 28

On one hand, this has been a long time coming. Public sites in other states already do this. Illinois has finally caught up.  On the other hand, we know how fiscally irresponsible and unethical our state is.
Fool me once, shame on you….

Posted by Walston on March 28

I like the idea of spreading the costs of the parks over all users instead of just hunters and fishermen.  I just bought my Wisconsin vehicle sticker ($35 non-res), and I’m sure this could be implimented through a vehicle sticker without hiring park attendants.  It would be more fair if the purchase of a hunting or fishing license entitled you to a sticker (or you could deduct the cost of a license from the sticker), kind of the same way a federal duck stamp gets you onto federal land. 
But, of course, the real problem is keeping the money from being swept (and that’s really my only objection).

Posted by Murdy on March 28

Anyone that buys this pass is just encouraging more irresponsibilities. I hope everyone keeps in mind, anyone that hunts or fishes that is willing to pay this fee needs to be happy when the new permit and license increases hit, because guess what? We have tought the law makers that we will pay no matter how bad they screw us.
  I seen that someone was asking if these funds would be sweepable, well here is your wake up call to those that dont know. NO FUNDING IS SAFE. The last increases resulted in nothing extra for the DNR, how some may ask is simple. All the politicians need to do is cut the DNR money from the general revenue fund by the same amount as any increase, poof just like magic the money is gone.
Let’s face it this state has some of the worst parks in the country, an example for myself is why would I want to pay a fee to get into somewhere like starved rock after driving two hours when I can drive four hours to missouri and have not only hiking, but trout fishing, a place to ride 4wheelers and hiking is free down there.

Posted by Steve on March 28

Couldnt agree more Steve! Our state has become a joke…

Posted by FULLDRAW on March 28

Crystal ball says…........ Gov cuts funding by DNR by aprox. 9 million. The park fee is “projected” to bring in 9 million. Should be a break even in funding at best. Only difference is we pay instead of all the taxpayers in the state.
Reality says…......... park use will drop and the amount of revenue will NOT be as high as “projected”. Reality says that existing levels of funding (which the fee will just maintain) is not adequate as there is currently not enough staff, equipment is old and broken, grass does not get cut, buildings are in disrepair.
History says….............. almost every time there has been a fee increase on the sportsman, there has been an equal or larger cut in general revenue resulting in a net loss for the resource. You can go all the way back to when the deer permit was raised from $5 to $15…........ that was supposed to buy 2 planes for anti-poaching patrols and hire more wardens. 3 years later the 2 planes were transferred from the Dept. of Conservation to IDOT so they could be used to fly politicians around the state…....... the big warden hire never took place, only a few were hired. Time and time again the fees increase and no step forward takes place. History also shows that the funds will get diverted, swept or moved into projects not even closely related to state parks. It is the same play book that has been used for years, nothing new here folks.

Posted by The Colonel on March 28

I’d like to see them ask to see your hunting or fishing license - if you have one you are exempt.  I don’t have an issue with folks not holding these licenses paying - I think they should if they want to use the resource that hunters and fisherman have been funding for years.


Posted by IL_Bowhunter on March 28

Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t we already pay when we buy our fishing and hunting license, stamps, deer and turkey tags, and trapping license; plus tax on fishing and hunting equipment. If the crooks would keep their hands out of our cookie jar dnr would be ok.  Seems to me entrance fees are the only option left.  I havent been to a state park in about 8yrs because they never restocked the fisheries, but damn the roads sure are nice

Posted by wsmbass on March 28

Well I just went and read the bill in whole. It says the money will go into the State Parks Fund or the Wildlife and Fish Fund but says nothing about the funds can not be swept to the general fund. I wish it would say that it can not be swept into the general fund. All this money needs to stay within the State Parks, not in the DNR general fund or the State general fund.

If you want to read it here is a link.

Posted by ilarcher on March 28

I know this is hard to agree with but if the money actually goes toward the state park funds or the wildlife fund i am ALL for it.

Posted by CCHUNTER2024600 on March 28

Here is what will happen.  The income they make will go toward the park funds and they will decreae the funds coming from the general fund.  That’s what the crooks will do.  How else do you feed the Chicago beast.





Posted by Tim_Wild_Turkey on March 28

Let’s face it, the sportsmen/women have lost their clout in Illinois.  Too many people trapped it the concrete jumgle of Chicago.  Plus, not near enough hook & bullet types contacting their legislators or the governor complaining. 
I agree that the best outcome will be that the money raised by a park fee will be be deducted from DNR’s allotment from the general fund.  Well, that will probably happen next year anyway.  Unfortunately, with todays economy and mood, there is zero chance of IDNR getting a truly dedicated fund, like Missouri’s.
DNR, as an agency, is endangered, heading towards extinction.  Even if you have a bone to pick with the department, DNR is the ONLY agency in state government that gives a tinkers damn about the hook & bullet crowd.  If the CPO’s are incorporated into the State Police (which has been mentioned numerous times in the past 10 years), what are the chances that a CPO will be putting in OT during deer season when that OT money could be used for a DUI patrol at Christmas or New Years?  If Central Management Services, which operates most state properties, takes over DNR property, what are the odds that a labor intensive hunting program would survive?  I’ve got a feeling that in a couple of years, we’ll look at 2010 and reminsce about the good old days. 
Despite all the shortcomings of HR 5789, knowing that it is a band-aid at best, I’ll support it.  And, NO license money doesn’t nearly cover the annual expenses of the IDNR.  WSMBASS, I don’t know what parks you frequent, but the ones I routinely visit have severely potholed and rutted roads.

Posted by riverrat47 on March 29

RIVERRAT 47…....... I agree with what you say. However on the part about the license fees not covering the bill part. True, it does not, and should not. Around 30% of the existing DNR employees and budget are in the state museums, the Office of Water Resources and the Office of Mines and Minerals. These parts of the DNR should be exclusively funded by general revenue since their mission is directed away from the hook and bullet crowd. The General Revenue portion of the DNR budget is 21%, thus the hook and bullet crowd starts off with the budget out of whack right there with a 9% difference. When you take a look at the whole DNR, all the programs and seperate out what positions/budget are truely natural resource/hook/bullet/boat related and what are more directed at general benefit to all citizens, the licenses, permits and taxes paid by the hunters, fishermen and boaters are covering their portion of the bill and the funds have been diverted all around the agency to keep all of the other general benefit programs going. Your statement that license money does not nearly cover the annual expense of the DNR is true, but license money should not cover the entire DNR.

When the entire DNR is examined program by program, position by position down to every assistant director and secretary, and seperated out as to what is natural resource related and what is more “general welfare of the state”, general revenue does not even come close to covering the non-resource related expenses. If all of the DNR cuts had taken place in these types of sections, the sportsmans dollars would have kept a lot more biologists slots filled.

There are currently over 125 different licenses and permits issued by the DNR that sportsmen purchase. When I sell a log off my property I am taxed over 14%. When I buy a box of AA trap loads I pay 18.25% tax. When I buy a new crappie stick and a bag of jigs I am taxed 17.25%. When you camp you pay between $25 and $35 per nite. This goes on and on, the sportsman does currently carry the load.

Posted by The Colonel on March 29

Yes, Colonel, I know and agree about the other funds and their impact.  I don’t think that parks should operate on mainly wildlife and fish funds.  The majority of use is not hook, bullet or boating related. 
I couldn’t find enough information online; I only found the # of fishing licesnses sold in `09(478,217).  Using that number, assuming (I know) a sportsmans lic, 2 shotgun & archery permits, a turkey permit, habitat and duck stamp, the license amount comes to & 68.9 M, which is slightly less than 30% of the DNR budget.  Not every sportsman has a boat or sells timber.  Even if you add a boat to that 478,217, it the amount collected is still less than 1/3 of the DNR budget.  I wasn’t about to try and figure in the DJ and PR money into the equation.  As we both know, when people complain about license fees paying the bill, they are usually talking fishing/hunting/habitat fees.
I am pretty sure that you and I are in agreement that the department, overall, went downhill after it changed from Conservation to DNR (in medical terms means DO NOT RESUSCITATE). Agreed, too many chief positions have been created (has quinn no shame?) at the cost of unfilled field positions.  Do you agree that the sportmens and women of this state will be in a bigger hurt if DNR were eliminated and the duties of the “old” DOC were folded into other agencies, or simply eliminated?

Posted by riverrat47 on March 29

riverrat: I agree wholeheartly that it has gone downhill from DOC to DNR. But the reason I believe is due to a change in the mentality at the top about what is important, what is the true mission of the agency and who are the true customers of the agency. I also agree that the sportsmen need a DNR, but believe that they deserve a heck of a lot better DNR than we have now.

On their budget, I looked at the operations side of the budget and pretty much disregarded that big part of the budget of grants money. That is just money that is in the budget but just passes through enroute park districts, local governments etc. For example there is $15 million being processed through DNR right now for grants to museums around the state. If you try to work through the entirity of the budget it will make your head hurt. When you work with just the operations side ( the core mission side) and run the sportsman dollars through that part, the picture gets much clearer. Our dollars are the big dog on the porch but all it seems we get anymore is the shock collar.

We have a very broken DNR right now, very basic functions are not even accomplished. For example, I found out this morning that the DNR does not even have the commercial fishing tags for this year and the 2011 ones expire on Saturday. They are saying they will not be able to get the tags until the new fiscal year starts on July 1st! The deer tags are also supposed to be on hold until a new fiscal year. The money from the park fee will not fix these types of problems. Revenue produers such as tags and permits are not available, sad. Will they even accomplish the task of getting the park pass ordered or printed? Not based upon what is going on in Disneyland now.

Posted by The Colonel on March 29

Unfortuantely, the Director is director in name only. The governors office has total control of the departments budget and CMS has control over hiring, contracts, vehicles, computers and even the Springfield building (manning Manor). 
While I compeletely agree that DNR is broken, I’m just hoping that it can survive and be repaired.  For the department to survive it will take some of the people on sites such as this supporting the agency by calling their legislators and the governor to express their outrage about DNR’s budget being cut by a larger percentage than any other agency, how the staffing has been cut to beyond bare bones, and yet the governors office sees fit to send more and more political flunkies to DNR to be placed in administrative positions-and this has been going on for 10+ years.
I have made similar posts in recent months, and thus far I’ve heard from one other person, besides you and me, who have actually called their legislators or the governor.

Posted by riverrat47 on March 29

All I can say is this is bull crap. The family business I work for has to pay a state four percent sales tax for all the timber we pay for. We do have to collect it from the land owners before we start harvest which is taking out of the price that we pay for the timber. This so called four percent was supposed to go to parks, timber stand improvements, and basically anything that is wood related. All I can say is the money is not going to pay for these parks now. So why would they use they collect at the gate for it. With the amount that all the loggers in the state have to pay in I would guess it is in the millions every year so where is that money??? Just another way to take more money from the American tax payer!!!

Posted by Treeshaker on March 29

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