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updated: 4/11/2012 3:29 PM

Pay to play is the new reality outdoors

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Illinois is one of the most unique states in the union.

Aside from once being called the hog butcher to the world, our state is still able to thumb its nose at New York and California. We have the distinction of offering the country the tastiest, thin crust pizza, as well as thick and stuffed-crust alternatives.

Chicago area citizens can take advantage of tremendous outdoor activities in Cook and collar counties with the various lakes, ponds and forest preserve districts.

We have the finest Italian restaurants, making New Yorkers take notice. In fact, we the people invented Italian beef.

And we also have the finest lawmakers, local and state varieties that money can buy.

Even though our state parks and recreation areas have been the jewels of the Dept. of Natural Resources, the truth or fiction, if you will, can now be examined.

We have been told the state is close to financial ruin. We have been informed there aren't any extra quarters to fix machinery, vehicles and even scrounge up a coat of paint or two to spruce up the parks. Things are so bad that our esteemed state lawmakers have declared that you, the taxpayer, will have to pay a few extra bucks to enter a park, launch a boat, have a picnic, or just admire the overflowing garbage cans.

Disagree with me if you will, but I personally believe we are long overdue for a new entrance fee.

Of course, our state's legislative reputation stirs memories of shoeboxes stuffed with cash and checks and socked away in a Lake Shore Drive closet. Those memories are revived when we look at our official history books and see that four of our esteemed governors were sent to the hoosegow (Kerner, Walker, Ryan, and Blagojevich).

That aside, there always seems to be money for political junkets and pork roast garnished in Benjamins, but there never seems to a time when Joe Six Pack gets a break to show the kids there's more to life than 9-mm. drive-by dust-offs.

Yes, I believe we could pay a little for a lot of enjoyment in the state parks. You bet it's worth a few bucks to catch a monster flathead catfish. And a few bucks here and there should go for gasoline so the conservation officers can chase the poachers hoarding ducks and 50 extra fish in the trunks of their getaway vehicles.

A lot of other states have special entrance fee stickers that go on the corner of a vehicle's front windshield. I've purchased a few of those in my days and was happy to contribute because the states where that happened didn't have questionable state lawmakers who constantly made headlines for misdeeds.

Those very same states also had lawmakers who realized fishing, hunting, and state park activities brought out-of-state dollars to state coffers, just so Fish and Game (DNR) people wouldn't be forced to quit their jobs all because state lawmakers weren't wise enough to capitalize on found money.

But you and I will soon have to fork over some fresh greenery for the simple pleasures of life.

And then I thought about another matter. Didn't taxpayers already pay for the parks, water impoundments, and all the other goodies that go along with maintaining the facilities existence?

Well, yes, we paid for them, but someone forgot to sock away a few coins to take of the properties.

So sure, I'm OK with a sticker, but would someone in the state legislature please answer a question: Are you ladies and gents willing to take a pay cut to help the conservation cause, or is it going to be business as usual?

I know, I know -- I must be dreaming.

• Contact Mike Jackson at, and catch his radio show 6-7 a.m. Sundays on WSBC 1240-AM and live-streamed at

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