Horseshoe Lake State Park will no longer be in the dark after Wednesday.
The state Department of Natural Resources confirmed Tuesday that electric bills were recently paid by “an anonymous donor,” prompting the reopening of the 2,960-acre state park located off Highway 111. Bob Romanik, a local radio host and a candidate for state representative, later said he’s the person who paid the electricity provider for the overdue bills.
“Electric service has been restored at two Illinois Department of Natural Resources sites in the metro-east area. Overdue electricity bills were paid for Ramsey Lake State Recreation Area near Ramsey and Horseshoe Lake State Park near Granite City by an anonymous donor,” Young wrote in an email to a Belleville News-Democrat reporter. “Both parks will be open Wednesday, May 4.”
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A Facebook page called the St. Clair County Freedom Coalition wrote a public post with an attached screenshot of a payment receipt Tuesday night, indicating that Romanik covered the electric bills for Horseshoe Lake, as well as Ramsey and Carlyle. All three had owed money to Southwestern Electric Cooperative.
Romanik told the News-Democrat that he paid the bills in honor of his late son, Stephen Romanik II, who passed away in September at the age of 41. He pledged to cover the electric bills for all three state park sites throughout the summer for others “to enjoy the lake and scenery.” Romanik, who is running as a Republican in the 2016 election, said his decision to pay the bills was motivated by a personal choice rather than political purposes.
Romanik’s opponent in the election, Democrat LaToya Greenwood, could not immediately be reached for comment.
According to Young, IDNR owes $3,504.52 for trash service at Horseshoe Lake; however, he added that trash has been picked up recently by Republic Services. It was unclear as of Tuesday afternoon which vendor IDNR owes money to for trash service at the state park.
The move to open Horseshoe Lake comes more than a week after the state Department of Natural Resources closed the park indefinitely due to unpaid electric and trash bills. Young explained last month that the vendors had not been paid because of the state’s budget impasse.
IDNR said less than two weeks ago that Horseshoe Lake owed providers $3,504.52 for trash service and $829.58 for electricity. Metro East Park and Recreation District, in an effort to get Horseshoe Lake reopened, offered last week to cover the unpaid bills there, but the deal fell through because the power company, Southwestern Electric Cooperative, said it wouldn’t restore service at Horseshoe unless the state paid up on all bills owed to Southwestern. IDNR also was delinquent on its Southwestern electric bill at Ramsey Lake State Recreation Area, and was about to become delinquent on the power bill at Carlyle Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area.
Horseshoe Lake has been closed since April 25. IDNR said in April that it was unclear at the time when either Horseshoe Lake or Ramsey Lake would reopen.
Public officials and park visitors expressed dissatisfaction after the announced closures of both state parks, noting their frustration with the state for not yet passing a budget.
State Sen. Bill Haine (D-Alton) said Tuesday he was “pleased” with the move to reopen Horseshoe Lake and that the park “should have never been closed in the first place.” Haine’s 56th Senate District covers Horseshoe Lake, which is in the Granite City and Pontoon Beach area. He emphasized the need for the state to approve a budget.
“It’s a great asset to the area and, again, so many thousands of people use it for hunting, fishing and recreation and for weddings and family reunions. This is what makes an area a pleasant place to live — our state parks and city parks and county parks. We should always be finding every way to support our parks,” Haine said, adding that he did not know who the donor was earlier Tuesday. “The people of Illinois will owe a great debt of gratitude to (the anonymous donor) — him or her.”
Haine later added after learning of the donor’s identity that he had presumed it to be someone else who he described as “a prominent trial attorney.” Haine said he was not authorized to identify the potential donor.
“I had no idea it was Bob Romanik,” Haine said, “but as long as the parks are open, I’m happy.”