A week after Gov. Rod Blagojevich sliced $828,200 in state funding for Wildlife Prairie State Park, the budget cut remains in place.

A week after Gov. Rod Blagojevich sliced $828,200 in state funding for Wildlife Prairie State Park, the budget cut remains in place.


The money represents about half of the park’s operating costs.


Supporters of the park continue to hope that lawmakers eventually will restore the funding. But if that happens, it likely won’t be until November at the earliest.


The Illinois House of Representatives left the State Capitol on Wednesday, ending a two-day session to consider overriding some of the governor’s budget cuts.


The House did not deal with the funding for Wildlife Prairie.


Procedurally, the Senate must act first because the park’s $828,000 was among hundreds of reductions the governor made to Senate Bill 1102. Senate President Emil Jones has indicated he probably won’t summon his chamber back until the mid-November veto session.


The House’s budget-related action this week was limited to items included in House Bill 5701.


"We’re in suspended animation until November, apparently," Rep. David Leitch, R-Peoria, said this week.


James Tomlin, vice president and treasurer of the Forest Park Foundation, said park operations will proceed "pretty much as normal for now."


Park officials will wait to see what develops over the next few months, he added.


"We still think that the legislature and the governor will find some way to keep the good programs that the park operates," Tomlin said.


Forest Park Foundation operates Wildlife Prairie State Park under a contract with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.


Tomlin said that state funding for the period from July 2007 through June 2008 did not get to the foundation until last May.


"We carried the state for about 10 months. We’re committed to do that again as necessary," he said.


The park, located near Edwards in Peoria County, features bison, deer, wolves and other animals native to Illinois in their natural settings.


Philanthropist William Rutherford, co-founder of the Forest Park Foundation, created the park. For years, he sought to turn over ownership to the state, and that happened in 2000.


 


Adriana Colindres can be reached at (217) 782-6292 or adriana.colindres@sj-r.com.