Wildlife Prairie State Park gets new director, looks to go back to private ownership

By Audrey Williams

August 21, 2012 Updated Aug 22, 2012 at 9:08 AM CDT

HANNA CITY, Ill. -- Wildlife Prairie State Park was privately owned until about 12 years ago when the deed was turned over to Illinois to be run as a state park.

"The state financed it for several years and then in recent years wasn't able to. So, a group of us got together and said 'Wouldn't it make sense to take it back into private hands?'" said Dave Ransburg, a Board member with the Friends of Wildlife Prairie State Park.

A bill has passed the Senate that would allow the park to be transferred back into the private ownership of the Friends of Wildlife Prairie Park. The house has yet to vote on it.

Chief sponsor of the bill, Representative Mike Unes (R), issued a statement saying in part, "I pushed for the bill to be heard during last week's special session...I will continue to be persistent in trying to get this bill passed as soon as possible, as it's very important to our region."

The park recently hired a new Executive Director, Jason Boerger. Boerger says as they go through this transition period he hopes to draw on past experience. When he worked in Ohio the state cut funding to parks there.

"I've been there. I've taken parks to the reduction end and then I've brought them back up. I've done that and I know how to do that, and that's the experience that I'm hoping to draw on to bring this park up to the standards that everybody expects," said Boerger.

There is no time frame of when the house may vote on the bill. If they pass it, Boerger and the Friends of the park board are ready to take over the park for many years to come.

"We want to not just save it, but have it prosper," said Ransburg.

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