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Borrowed hooks: Gortowski on fees

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I haven't run a ``Borrowed Hooks'' guest commentary on a Friday for quite awhile, but here is one that caught my eye.

It's Ken Gortowski's take on the fee proposals by IDNR director Marc Miller.


Gortowski is a Fox River advocate, fisherman and was once a wading guide, and is sometimes a bit of a goader.

I have no problem with the IDNR's proposal to raise fishing and hunting fees for licenses. For what I get out of doing both of those activities the current fees have been a bargain. Raising them as recently outlined would still keep them as one of the best bargains available. If I were to get out fishing and hunting 30 times a year, which is about average for me now, I'm paying a little over a $1 a trip to wander around in some of the most beautiful areas available in northeastern Illinois. It doesn't get much better than that.

I do question charging parking fees at the state parks.

I live in Yorkville just down the road from Silver Springs State Park so I'll use that park as an example.

It takes me 3 to 4 minutes to drive to the park, and I do this often. On a nice lazy weekend or near sunset on any given day, my wife and I will go wander around the lake or down one of the parks many trails. On the weekends I have my daughters we have spent many of them picking blackberries and mulberries when in season or just exploring the far reaches just for the heck of it.

On hot summer days when driving by we've stopped briefly at Wally and Vi's concession stand just to get some of the best lemonade to be had in the Yorkville area. Fifteen minute break and we're gone. On days like that the park is always crowded. Few of them are fishing.

This past weekend, with the beautiful early spring weather we had, is a good example of how this park gets used. My daughter and I first took a stroll around the lake. Not many people around, but it was only 10:30 in the morning. We then ran home, grabbed some rods and went back to do some fishing. Or at least I attempted fishing while she walked around taking photographs of who knows what.

By now the park was getting more crowded. You could see that the parking lot by the lake was pretty much full. Few were fishing and most were just out enjoying the beautiful day. Numbers of people had cameras hanging around there necks, stopping randomly to take photographs of something that caught there eye. Many more had their dogs out with them and were lazily walking along letting the dogs sniff out new smells. Or they were letting them go for a swim in the lake. People were arriving from the far west end, meaning that they were parking at the west parking lot and hiking their way back to the lake since the road going east was still closed for the season. Picnics were being set up in the open area next to the main parking lot.

When we left, I decided to drive all the way through and around the park. The parking areas by the trap and archery ranges were packed. There were people patiently waiting for shooting areas to be opened up and there were a few taking advantage of the archery targets.

As we headed west the two small parking lots where the bird hunters park during pheasant season both had a few horse trailers parked in them. Between the trailers were more cars for those that like to wander the fields that head south. At the far west end you could see a lone remote control plane buzzing the field set aside for that purpose.

On the north side of the Fox River where the park continues, there were cars parked in the parking lot by the Mies van der Rohe Farnsworth House. Further down are two more parking lots, each had a couple of cars in them. On the other side of the road is the area set aside for dog training. But I've been known to torture my daughters by taking them through this area to find who knows what.

I have a feeling that if I had stopped 90 percent of the people out that day and asked them what they thought of the temporary closing of the other state parks, they would have had no clue what I was talking about. I also have a feeling that if I had mentioned the proposed parking fees, they would have been appalled. It wouldn't bother me for a second to cough up $25, it would just have to wait till it fit my tight budget. But I wonder how many people would do the same. How many would show up knowing nothing about it and then turn around and go home because they don't want to spend the $5. How many would not want to pay the $25 for the year and simply give up going to the park all together.

Then there's the logistics of it all. At a state park where there is one road in and out, setting up a station and collecting fees is simple. That's the way it is at Devil's Lake in Wisconsin. But Silver Springs has 10 parking areas. Do you set up a station at each one or do you close all but the 4 main ones. From a job creation standpoint, setting up the stations would be a good thing considering they would have to be open pretty much from sunrise to sunset 7 days a week. But then what do you do during hunting season. Open up the 4 smaller lots? Put in a temporary fee collection station? Do you even charge hunters an additional amount to park while they hunt? And if you don't have stations at all, now what? A sticker for your car? Is someone going to go around checking these? Will they be handing out tickets to those that don't have one and how much is that ticket going to cost?

I'm sure this same scenario can be played out at almost all of the state parks. Kankakee River State Park comes to mind. Will there be a fee collection station at Area 7?

Raising money for the IDNR is important and I have no doubt I'll support a lot of what is suggested. I'm not so sure about the parking fees. Seems to raise far too many questions.

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They could do what they do at Belmont Harbor and Waveland golf course, put in a machine where you pay for how long you will be there, and put the receipt on your dashboard. If you don't pay, you risk a ticket.

Marc Miller called me yesterday to discuss the proposed fees amongst other things. I understand what Ken is saying and he is right about most people not being willing (or able) to pay a yearly fee.
You have to put things in perspective though. Most states charge some type of user fees. The state of affairs of our IDNR is long overdue for an overhaul. The department has been politically raped of manpower and funds for many years now. Realistically, much needed funding, won't be coming from the General Assembly in these economic times. For years, the Illini Muskies Alliance and other groups have provided funding and manpower to help make-up for some of the many shortfalls. Sportsmen like Ken and most organizations, have been and will be willing to, pay their way and will continue to support necessary increases.
However, while license fees for fishing and hunting provide some of the funding for state programs, they fall far short of the funds needed. Many users such as hikers and birdwatchers, as an example do not provide any specific funding except for their state income tax.
Unfortunately this is no longer adequate, if we want to have the kind of outdoor activities we expect available in the future.

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This page contains a single entry by Dale Bowman published on March 19, 2009 9:14 PM.

Fishing adds for weekend was the previous entry in this blog.

Borrowed hook: No trust on IDNR fees is the next entry in this blog.

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