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updated: 4/19/2012 2:53 PM

State park fees are a reality that bear watching

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  • Rend Lake in southern Illinois is one of Mike Jackson's favorite spots. His column calling for support of state park fees to help support the state Department of Natureal Resources draw a lot of responses from readers, with the majority in favor of the charge if it means keeping the state parks open.

      Rend Lake in southern Illinois is one of Mike Jackson's favorite spots. His column calling for support of state park fees to help support the state Department of Natureal Resources draw a lot of responses from readers, with the majority in favor of the charge if it means keeping the state parks open.
    Associated Press/2007 file

 
 

The column I wrote last week was my clear admission that Illinois taxpayers and voters need to decide whether or not state lawmakers have been duping us with their actions.

Because I am a native of this state, I fell into line as a kid at age 21 when my father suggested how I should vote.

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"Just go straight Democrat," he suggested, "because it's best to keep our aldermen and county commissioners in place."

So being the good and obedient son, I punched the suggested names on the ballots and then proceeded to eat lunch at my favorite Chicago hot dog joint.

This little slice of history has been brought to you by Dumb Outdoorsmen of Illinois, a mishmash of anglers and hunters who have been scared to death of trying to upset the apple cart, so to speak.

It's no secret that if one lives in some age-old political stronghold, you could very well lose your garbage cans or perhaps find one or two violation tickets stashed under your car's wipers. The ticket writers would probably defend their action by claiming your vehicle was parked too close to the curb or a fireplug.

I have received a considerable number of emails from readers praising me for what I wrote last week. It was about my support for entrance fees to state parks and other state-run facilities.

State lawmakers have been unkind to the Illinois DNR, as well as other state agencies.

Those emails that came roaring in through the electronic ether were both pro and con about the state park fees, with the pro writers in the majority.

I tend to believe Illinois taxpayers and outdoors people want to hang on to what we've taken for granted for many decades. Even if that means coming up with some bucks for an annual entrance sticker to support the status quo on DNR properties.

Have you ever visited Garden of the Gods in southern Illinois? My first visit to the timeless treasure literally took my breath away.

Have you walked through the brush in the wooded areas of Rend Lake, or dipped a paddle in the moss-covered waters of the Cache River?

How about a close-up side show on Grass Lake of a beaver stacking wood for its winter home?

With the simple adornment of inexpensive chest waders, the world of smallmouth bass could easily be yours on a warm afternoon.

Our problem is easy to understand.

We have had a free ride for generations. State lawmakers -- not all of them, mind you -- have known for years that the public will never care about legislative hanky-panky just as long as the powers that be don't assign a tax on a six-pack high enough to make those who love that stuff grab a pitch fork and storm the state house in Springfield.

But I say it's time we took out our powerful magnifying glasses and inspect everything a state, county, and local lawmaker does with your nickels and dimes.

Yes, we will pay the price if we want to keep on enjoying the woods and waters, but it's also time we send both Democrats and Republicans a message to Springfield. That message is: We are watching you closely.

Need I say more?

•Contact Mike Jackson at angler88@comcast.net, and catch his radio show 6-7 a.m. Sundays on WSBC 1240-AM and live-streamed at www.mikejacksonoutdoors.com.

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