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Illinois state parks getting license plate money

SPRINGFIELD – A $2 surcharge on Illinois license plate renewals is paying off for state parks.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources started receiving money from the surcharge in March, director Marc Miller said. The General Assembly approved the surcharge last year.

The department will use the expected annual haul of $18 million to $22 million to defray a $750 million maintenance backlog.

"Half of the money will go for operation and maintenance to ensure there is a healthy stay for our visitors," Miller told The (Springfield) State Journal-Register. "And half will go towards capital improvements like shower houses, roads and roofs."

Miller said managers are going through to-do lists and setting priorities. He said the department has been able to make "selective hires."

The legislation that included the license plate surcharge also lets IDNR charge new fees for some permits and other services.

Randy Hawkins, site superintendent at Sangchris Lake State Park southeast of Springfield, said he has been able to put a new roof on the park's shower house and add new sinks and countertops.

"Grills, pit toilets and shower buildings are first," Hawkins said.

There's still more work to do, but Hawkins said it's better now than when he became frustrated after he first started at the park.

"The doors were all rusted," he said. "The whole thing is color-coordinated now. It looks really nice."

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Information from: The State Journal-Register, http://www.sj-r.com

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