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Parks and Recreation Vital to a Stronger Illinois

A Stronger Illinois for Web-23 Parks and recreation — natural drivers of health for both Illinoisans and our economy — are in danger of further cuts if state lawmakers allow revenue to plunge next year, according to the latest report in the Fiscal Policy Center’s “A Stronger Illinois” series.

Parks and recreation are smart investments for Illinois, providing 44 million visitors a year opportunities to engage in outdoor activities like hiking, biking, hunting and camping. All those visitors mean needed revenue for local economies.

But funding could be cut by $2 to $3 million next year — enough to operate, on average, 8 to 11 state parks — if lawmakers allow revenue to drop, resulting in less economic activity around natural areas throughout Illinois.

The report, produced in collaboration with the Illinois Environmental Council and Faith in Place, tells the story of Lorena, whose family can be found out walking, playing, and participating in outdoor education and conservation activities in parks at all times of the year. Her two boys and daughter have grown up learning how to identify different trees, plants, and animals. Her daughter — who has asthma — benefits from being out in the clean air.

In September, Lorena helped organize an event to engage hundreds of Illinois residents from diverse cultural backgrounds in the recreation opportunities offered by state parks. They spent time connecting to each other and the outdoors through storytelling, picnicking, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, and fishing. Well-maintained grounds, ample picnic areas, and clean restrooms made this successful event possible.

These kinds of activities won’t be possible in communities across Illinois unless lawmakers take the responsible path and provide the resources our state needs to fund parks and natural areas for a stronger Illinois.

Next week — as we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving —  look out for our report on why homeless prevention is so critical to a stronger Illinois. 


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