HANNA CITY, Ill. -- Wildlife Prairie State Park officials are optimistic state lawmakers will approve a bill to return the property to private ownership.
The state has owned the land that is home to Gertie the Groundhog and many other animals since 2000. But payments have been inconsistent because of budget cuts.
Legislation now in the House would give responsibility to the Friends of Wildlife Prairie Park.
Park development director Molly Waller said the transfer will allow them to better serve the community, though the idea created some anxiety at first.
"The future of the park I'm sure looked a little less certain several, several months ago," she said. "I think we have crossed a huge threshold into the land of safety so it's no longer a matter of if, but a matter of when, and so that's great news."
The park opens for the season on Saturday. Visitors can enjoy free admission for the Spring Wake-Up event: "Butterflies, Birds, Bears, Oh My."
To learn more and take advantage of a special membership deal, visit www.WildlifePrairieStatePark.org.