2021 IDNR in Review
IDNR Yearly Highlights
Illinois state parks and historic sites drew some 40 million visitors in 2021 as people turned more to outdoor activities in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Camping at state parks continued to be a popular activity, with more than 112,000 camping reservations in 2021. Camping revenue – which generated $9.6 million in 2021 – supports the State Parks, Wildlife and Fish, or Historic Preservation funds, depending on the location for which the fees are collected.
IDNR completed construction of a new dam gate and lock expansion at the Stratton Lock and Dam on the Fox River in McHenry in 2021. The $20 million project by the Office of Water Resources made the structure safer and more efficient and doubled its capacity. The dam helps maintain water levels suitable for recreation in the Chain o’ Lakes.
IDNR’s Illinois Recreational Access Program, or IRAP, celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2021. The program connects outdoor lovers, families, and youth and adult hunters and anglers with private land that’s available for recreational opportunities. Through the program, more than 27,000 private acres in 52 counties have been leased for public access, 17,300 acres of habitat projects have been implemented, and more than 5,000 participants have been able to hunt and fish on private land.
IDNR’s Pullman State Historic Site completed a massive, complex historic preservation project at the world-famous Pullman Car Works in Chicago. It was the first partnership in the country between the National Park Service and a state department of natural resources. The site preserves the surviving portions of an industrial complex developed in the early 1800s for building Pullman luxury railroad passenger cars.
IDNR, in partnership with the Illinois Capital Development Board, oversaw restoration of the dome and drum on the Old State Capitol in downtown Springfield. The $1.5 million project included restoration of the exterior columns surrounding the drum, dome windows, and interior areas damaged by water penetration. While the building was closed for the project, site team members worked with advocacy organizations to create a new 11-minute site experience video and a new education gallery to showcase artifacts.
IDNR processed millions of hunting and fishing licenses, permits, and stamps for people who want to enjoy these opportunities in Illinois. In 2021, the agency licensed more than 673,000 anglers and nearly 283,000 hunters. It also handled nearly 2.5 million other licenses, permits, and stamps. These fees are vital to supporting conservation efforts throughout the state.
IDNR’s Lake Le-Aqua-Na State Recreation Area in Stephenson County reopened in 2021 with new roads and updates throughout the park after being closed more than a year and a half for a total site renovation. More than $7 million in state and federal funds were invested in capital improvements, including the draining, repair, and restoration of the 40-acre Lake Le-Aqua-Na.
IDNR continued making progress on the design of a multi-million-dollar aquatic invasive species deterrent project at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam site on the Des Plaines River near Joliet. This effort — in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — will help prevent the upstream movement of invasive carp and other aquatic nuisance species into the Great Lakes. The first phase of construction could begin as soon as 2024.
IDNR’s World Shooting and Recreational Complex in Sparta safely hosted the Grand American World Trapshooting Championships in August with strict COVID-19 protocols in place. The complex annually attracts sportsmen and women and spectators from all 50 states, several Canadian provinces, and five continents. And it had an estimated $15 million economic impact on the region during the pandemic.
The Illinois State Museum reopened its gift store, which had been dormant since 2015, with a ribbon-cutting just before the holidays and a great deal of community support. Located on the first floor of the museum’s Springfield headquarters, The Shop features Illinois-made products, including clothing, artisan jewelry, STEAM projects for youth, and more. Proceeds from sales help fund museum programming.
IDNR’s Safety Education section teaches the public about the rules, regulations, and safety guidelines for hunting, boating, snowmobiling, and trapping. It relies on eight staff members and more than 1,000 volunteer safety education instructors throughout Illinois to teach up to 15,000 students annually how to engage in these activities safely and legally. In 2021, the Safety Education section issued the following student certifications: 6,202 for boating, 6,297 for hunting, 757 for snowmobiling, and 342 for trapping.