SPRINGFIELD — The director of the state agency that oversees the operation of the long-closed Eagle Creek Resort at Lake Shelbyville said Thursday that he hopes the facility can reopen in 2016.
Marc Miller of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources made the remarks after a budget hearing before a Senate appropriations committee. In his testimony, Miller warned that without the extension of the state's current 5 percent individual income tax rate, the IDNR would have to close nine "average-sized" state parks and two of the five state museums it operates.
The closures would mean 3 million fewer visits a year to state parks and $100 million in lost local economic benefits, he said.
The committee took no action on the agency budget, nor on those for any other state departments and programs that came before the panel Thursday. Lawmakers still must decide this month whether to make the 5 percent tax rate permanent or to allow the rate to drop, as scheduled, to 3.75 percent on Jan. 1. After those votes are taken, agency budgets can be set depending on anticipated revenue.
Meanwhile, Miller said he hopes to receive requests for proposals for a new private contractor at the 25-year-old Eagle Creek Resort later this year. The most recent operator, Decatur-based BMDD Resorts Corp., walked away from its lease and the resort project in March. BMDD had been awarded the contract to operate Eagle Creek in 2010 after a judge ruled that the receiver running the resort, which was infested with mold, had to close it.
Miller said he believes the resort, located about 70 miles southwest of Champaign, can be financially successful.
"We're looking for other ideas about what we might be able to do there," he said, "but it's a beautiful location, and we believe in it."
Some possible changes, including building cabins on the site, would require the agreement of the Army Corps on Engineers, which operates Lake Shelbyville, Miller said.