A deal that could have reopened Horseshoe Lake State Park fizzled because the park’s electricity provider wants the state to also get caught up on its bills at two other state parks.
Metro East Park and Recreation District, at the urging of local government leaders, has offered to pay the trash and electricity bills at Horseshoe Lake during the state’s budget impasse. But the electricity provider won’t restore service at Horseshoe Lake unless the state also gets caught up on its delinquent bills at Ramsey Lake State Recreation Area and Carlyle Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area.
The state Department of Natural Resources announced April 20 that it was closing Horseshoe Lake because electricity and trash service were being cut off. The electricity and trash vendors weren’t being paid due to the state’s budget stalemate.
Mike Buehlhorn, the director of Metro East Park and Recreation District, said local political leaders asked him after the closure about the possibility of his agency picking up the state’s electricity and trash bills at Horseshoe Lake.
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“I know the state has a budget impasse, and I know the utility companies have their rules. It just didn’t work out. Maybe they’ll find another way,” Buehlhorn said Friday.
I know the state has a budget impasse, and I know the utility companies have their rules. It just didn’t work out. Maybe they’ll find another way.
Mike Buehlhorn, director, Metro East Park and Recreation District
The deal fell through because the electricity provider, Southwestern Electric Cooperative, said it wouldn’t restore electricity to Horseshoe Lake unless Southwestern also gets what it’s owed at two other state sites: Ramsey Lake and Carlyle Lake.
A spokesman for Southwestern declined comment Friday, saying the electricity cooperative does not publicly discuss its customer accounts.
Chris Young, spokesman for the Department of Natural Resources, said the state owes $829 to Southwestern for Horseshoe Lake, $1,765 for Ramsey Lake and $465 for Carlyle Lake. Carlyle Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area is separate from Eldon Hazlet State Park, which has a different electricity provider and is a major recreation area at Carlyle Lake.
Young said IDNR has tried to work with vendors to keep utilities and other services intact at state parks during the budget stalemate.
“Our site superintendents work very closely with those providers, too, to see what we can do to get through all of this,” Young said.
Our site superintendents work very closely with those providers, too, to see what we can do to get through all of this.
Chris Young, spokesman, Illinois Department of Natural Resources
The Metro East Park and Recreation District is primarily funded by a sales tax in Madison and St. Clair counties. It operates trails and parks in the two counties.
Buehlhorn, the park district’s director, said St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern, Madison County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan, and state Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, asked about the possibility of helping with the bills at Horseshoe Lake, in an effort to get it reopened.
“We had talked about setting aside a dollar amount to get them through the end of the year, because I would assume by then we would have a budget,” Buehlhorn said.
Buehlhorn said the park district would be open to the idea of helping a state park such as Horseshoe that is within Madison and St. Clair counties, but not ones that are located elsewhere — such as Ramsey and Carlyle.
“If they’re not in our district, we can’t do anything with it,” Buehlhorn said. “Nor should we.”
The closure of Horseshoe Lake has local officials concerned and has affected at least one Granite City business.
Ron’s Bait Shop, located at the state park off Illinois 111, said on Facebook that it had to close its doors April 24. The business said the closure is temporary; however, it said its Bunkum Road location would remain open.
“Once again we are just as upset as everyone else and we most certainly hope that this is settled very quickly,” the Facebook post read.
IDNR also has closed Ramsey Lake because of electricity being cut off. For now, the Carlyle Lake site is open.
Young said Carlyle Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area is on a different billing cycle, but that site also would have to be shut down if electricity service is cut off.