Durbin: $26 Million Federal Investment in Rend Lake Pays Dividends in Jobs and Economic Development

[BENTON, IL] – Rend Lake visitors will soon enjoy improved campsites, better roads, well-staffed recreation facilities with fully restored services, and a new visitor’s center, thanks to a $26 million infusion of funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said today.  The federally-funded projects at Rend Lake have created or sustained more than 200 jobs, helping to achieve the Recovery Act’s primary goals of getting Americans back to work and jump starting our nation’s economy.

“When I visited this area in 2008, I heard from a variety of residents about the reduction in services at Rend Lake and the negative impact that would have on the local economy,” Durbin said.  “Years of budget cuts had resulted in a significant amount of backlogged maintenance projects and Rend Lake was struggling to keep up with tourist demand.  Shorter hours and fewer open campgrounds equaled fewer visitors and less revenue, locals told me.”  
Calling Rend Lake one of the “gems” of Illinois tourism, Durbin said the federal grant recognizes the importance of Rend Lake to Southern Illinois.  With over 3,000,000 visits last year alone, resulting in nearly $73 million in spending, Rend Lake is an economic engine for the region.  Visits were up in 2009 and are expected to increase further this year, as families forgo big vacations and opt to stay closer to home.
The funding is being used primarily for improvements to the South Marcum Campground and the replacement of the visitor center and administration buildings.  When work is completed, visitors will have access to a bike trail, improved campsites, and better roads.   Campground facilities will be able to accommodate more visitors and will meet the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  The deteriorating visitor center and administration building will be replaced with a consolidated, environmentally sustainable structure that will improve the visitor experience.  The funding also made it possible to refill job vacancies and hire temporary summer employees.  
“In Illinois, we’re lucky to have first class tourist destinations in our backyard,” Durbin said.  “When we can create jobs by investing in treasures like Rend Lake: that’s the best of both worlds.”