Gov. Bruce Rauner announced the state has acquired 2,629 acres of property in LaSalle County to protect natural resources and expand recreation opportunities, tourism and economic development near Starved Rock and Matthiessen state parks.
“More than 3 million people visit Starved Rock and Matthiessen state parks each year. They are among the most beautiful destinations in our state,” Rauner said. “This expansion increases the amount of open space that will be managed and protected there by more than 50 percent and gives people even more reasons to enjoy the outdoors in LaSalle County.”
“Starved Rock and Matthiessen state parks are gems for the Illinois Valley and the state,” said State Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris. “The beauty of these parks is unmatched in Illinois, and this new land acquisition will only add to the pleasurable experience for visitors. This is great news for the area and will provide an additional boost to economic development and tourism as people will want to explore these areas, watch the wildlife, and see more of Illinois in an exciting new way. The expansion will add to the already rich natural resources portfolio of the region, especially when we market Starved Rock and Matthiessen state parks beyond our borders.”
The state acquired the land from Lone Star Industries Inc., which, along with its predecessor companies, has owned much of the property since the early 1900s. The land originally was mined for coal. It also has been mined for limestone and used as a site for cement manufacturing.
Thanks to mined land reclamation, existing forested areas, lakes, and a stretch of the scenic Vermilion River, the site is ideally suited for development of outdoor recreational uses.
“The decision to sell this land to preserve open space represents Buzzi Unicem USA’s effort to be a good corporate citizen and an environmentally responsible neighbor,” said Daniel B. Nugent, senior vice president of Technical Services and Governmental Affairs for Lone Star Industries, doing business as Buzzi Unicem USA. “Sustainable development is a core value of our business model. We strive to do business in a way that can meet the needs of present generations without jeopardizing the ability to satisfy the needs of future generations.”
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) will manage the property as part of the Starved Rock/Matthiessen state park complex. Planning is underway to restore forest, prairie and wildlife habitat, develop trails, a campground, picnic areas, and boat, canoe and kayak access, as well as foster horseback riding, cross country skiing, fishing and hunting opportunities.
“I want to thank Gov. Rauner for his vision in supporting this expansion of our busiest state park complex — and thank Lone Star Industries for working with the state to make this property available for the use and enjoyment of area residents and visitors from throughout the state, the nation, and around the world,” said IDNR Director Wayne Rosenthal. “Opportunities like this don’t come around very often, and we’re delighted to add this parcel to Starved Rock and Matthiessen for the enjoyment of visitors for generations to come.”
The IDNR purchased the property for $11,050,000 through the state’s Open Land Trust, established to acquire property for conservation and recreation purposes.