Illinois Public Media News
The state of Illinois has another lodging facility on its hands, and it's trying to find a buyer.
The state already owns one hotel in which it had invested money, and last year it unloaded a second. The latest possession is a property on state park land. The firm that held the concession for the Eagle Creek Resort and Conference Center near Shelbyville had fallen into receivership, and last month the receiver asked that it be closed. Today the state began asking for bids to revive the sprawling resort.
Tom Flattery is a planner with the state Department of Natural Resources. He says the closure has come at a bad time for the resort industry, so finding an operator may be tough.
Flattery says the Eagle Creek Resort had deteriorated over time, so he estimates that it could take 1.5 million dollars to restore it. In the meantime, the DNR is keeping the resort mothballed, spending about 50 thousand dollars a year to provide security and maintain the 18-hole golf course.
Bids for running the resort are due by mid-November.
There were lots of people out on bicycles Wednesday evening in Champaign-Urbana. But for some of those people, the ride carried extra meaning. 20 cyclists rode together in a Ride Of Silence to remember those injured or killed while cycling on public roadways. The group wore black armbands as they cycled together on an 8-mile route from the U of I Assembly Hall to downtown Urbana and back.
The cyclists included Urbana schoolteacher Frank Modica, who says both cyclists and motorists need to be alert for each other when on the road. He says that when driving, the most important thing is to drive undistracted. Modica says that means "don't drive around with an iPod in your ear. Because one of the major people we remember locally was killed because of a distracted driver, who was on a cellphone downloading ringtones." Modica referred to Matt Wilhelm, who was struck and killed by a distracted driver while cycling in Urbana in 2006. Modica says such accidents show the importance of NOT using cellphones while driving.
Susan Jones of the group Champaign County Bikes says this is the third year they've sponsored the Ride of Silence locally. It's one of nearly 300 such rides that were scheduled for around the country and the world on Wednesday, May 20th. Other Illinois cities scheduled to host the Ride Of Silence included Charleston, Peoria, Joliet and Chicago.The annual Ride of Silence began in 2003, in reaction to the death of a cyclist in Dallas.
Police in Champaign and Urbana are preparing for more than nine thousand runners, many of whom will take a 26 mile tour around the two cities Saturday morning.
The first-ever Illinois Marathon will require patience from drivers as runners hit the city streets. Champaign police sergeant Scott Friedlein says on many parts of the course runners and vehicles will share the roads, so motorists will have to take extra precautions or find alternate routes.
"When you mix runners and traffic, you run a risk of situations occurring," Friedlein said. "The better we do at marking and making it very clear where people are supposed to be -- and we're working on that diligently on that as we speak -- then the safer the route becomes."
Friedlein says some streets will also be totally closed at times, and no-parking signs are going up along the marathon routes in both Champaign and Urbana. He calls it the largest event he's ever had to prepare for in his 15 years on the force because of the long route and hundreds of volunteers.
People in Champaign-Urbana get their chance over the next week to offer opinions about downtown Champaign's cultural offerings and how they can improve.
The cultural group known as 40 North 88 West is wants to form a cultural arts district. Its director of operations, Steven Bentz, says downtown Champaign already has lots of cultural offerings - the goal is to make downtown a destination for families, day or night. He says the public has a big say in how that arts district would look.
"Is it arts facilities? Is it more classes? Is it happenings on the street? Are people wanting to see a greater involvement from multiple groups from around Champaign County -- educational groups, cultural groups, churches? What kinds of buy-in would people like to see happen through a cultural arts district in downtown Champaign?" asked Bentz. "We're encouraging people to really dream big."
After the public comment sessions, 40 North would hire a consultant to help come up with a definitive plan for an arts district.
The public sessions began Thursday night -- others will be held next Wednesday night at at 7:00 at City Hall and Thursday at noon at the Springer Cultural Center.
The co-founder of the Raggedy Ann and Andy Museum in Arcola says it was a sad decision but a necessary one - the museum will close this summer and most exhibits moved to a museum in New York.
Joni Gruelle Wannamaker is the granddaughter of Johnny Gruelle, who was raised in Arcola and created the scruffy red-haired dolls in 1915. Wannamaker says she and her husband Tom left their jobs in Atlanta ten years ago to build the museum, but she says advancing age, declining attendance - and a drop in overall tourism in the Douglas County area -- forced the decision to close.
"We have done a lot of advertising over the years, advertising for Arcola and the surrounding area," Wannamaker said. "But perhaps there was a change at the Chamber of Commerce...I just don't know."
Wannamaker says she and Tom were impressed with the museum where the Raggedy Ann and Andy exhibits will be headed, the Strong Museum of Play in Rochester New York - the dolls are already in that museum's National Toy Hall of Fame. But Wannamaker says she and her husband are staying in Arcola.
Governor Pat Quinn says shuttered historic sites could reopen by summer.
The Chicago Democrat says he is committed to opening them by June 30, even though his proposed budget calls for leaving them closed.
We've got to get a little more money. We've made some reorganization, so the historic sites are going to get done as quickly as possible," the governor said at a stop in Savoy yesterday.
Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich closed a dozen historic sites and state parks last year to help fill a budget deficit. After Quinn became governor, he reopened the parks and said he would do the same for the historic sites, including the farm owned by Abraham Lincoln's family in Coles County.
Quinn now says money for reopening them will come from merging the agencies that oversee natural resources and historic sites.
Next to the county fair, one of the highlights of many a small towns summer used to be the Chautauqua. Traveling shows would come to Illinois towns in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and give people a chance to learn about the world they live in, all served up with a good dose of entertainment. The Urbana Park District wants to revive the Chautauqua as it celebrates one hundred years of managing the city's parks. AM 580s Tom Rogers talked with the people who have put together nearly a week's worth of events for the new Urbana Chautauqua. (far-left: the main Chautauqua tent in Urbana. right: a much earlier Chautauqua in Lithia Springs, IL.)
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