McGinniss spoke Sept. 3 to members of the Metropolis Kiwanis Club and explained to the group Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) is in the process of finding out exactly what is wrong with the fort and what repairs are needed.
Thanks to Senate Bill 1566, which was signed by the Gov. Pat Quinn last year, over $18 million is helping fix aging infrastructure and other facilities at state parks, hire staff to continue important IDNR programs and speed up the agency’s vast regulatory functions.
The bulk of the revenue is coming from a $2 increase on the Illinois Motor Vehicle Registration fee, which is paid annually on every registered vehicle in Illinois.
In addition, the bill also increased or created several other specific user fees, which are paid solely by those individuals and groups who use particular services or programs administered or provided by the IDNR.
“We now have over $750,000 sitting in an escrow account that is earmarked for repairs to the fort at Fort Massac,” explained McGinniss. “At this point, we are waiting for a final report that pinpoints exactly what repairs need to be made, that should be completed by December.”
“I am excited that we are now seeing much needed funds heading our way, which will help — from additional staff to upgrades of existing facilities. For the past few years, we have been operating on a skeleton crew at both Fort Massac and Mermet, but help is coming,” added McGinniss.
Among other things, McGinniss hopes to:
• Make upgrades to the campground at Fort Massac State Park.
• And, increase staff at both Fort Massac and Mermet, including the hiring of an Natural Resources Coordinator. “We had approximately 195,000 visitors to last year’s Encampment — which was our largest crowd ever — and of that over 2000 were students who were bussed in on Friday from schools throughout the tri-state region,” said McGinniss. “We are expecting that number to be even more this year because we already have 1000 students who are registered to attend and this is just early September.”
McGinnis informed the Kiwaisians that just recently the George Rogers Clark Discovery Trail had officially been turned over to the park from the contractors who built the trail. Construction began in May 2010.
“However, I’m looking at the possibility down the road to connect the bike trail to the trout pond, but to do so would mean a bridge project across Massac Creek,” explained McGinniss. “If the bridge is built, it would be longest pedestrian bridge of this type in the U.S. and would attract bikers worldwide.”