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December 11, 2000

Governor Ryan Announces Largest State Acquisition Ever

PINCKNEYVILLE -- Gov. George H. Ryan today announced the state is acquiring more than 16,000 acres of property in Perry County through his Open Land Trust initiative - the largest acquisition of its kind in state history.

"This acquisition marks the single largest block of land to be set aside by the state of Illinois for natural resource preservation and recreation," Ryan said. "The natural characteristics of this area will provide the public with expanded opportunities for hunting, fishing, wildlife habitat, protection of open space and general outdoor recreation."

By the end of the year, the first two phases of the acquisition from Arch Coal Company, totaling 7,209 acres, will be complete. The third phase is expected to be complete by next summer.

The acquisition will become part of the existing 3,200-acre Pyramid State Park, making the site, at more than 19,000 acres, the largest state park in Illinois.

The park is expected to increase tourism in southern Illinois.

"People from St. Louis, Missouri and Paducah, Kentucky, are only 75 miles away. Peoria, Springfield, Evansville, Indiana; and Memphis, Tennessee; are only a few hours away," Ryan said. "The close proximity to these urban areas, coupled with the size of the site and the diversity of activities that could be offered, means enhanced tourism and economic development in this area."

The Illinois Open Land Trust provides $160 million over four years to protect the state's most precious natural resources. It is the largest open space acquisition and preservation program in Illinois history.

"This program is literally changing the landscape of Illinois - and it is the people of Illinois - our children and grandchildren, who will be able to enjoy the natural beauty of this great state for generations to come."

Ryan presented Perry County officials with a check for $420,000, which represents a community planning allowance provided for in the Open Land Trust Program to assist local governments defray the impact of property tax losses as the state obtains the property. The allowance is a percentage of the property's purchase price. Local officials will receive another payment when the final phase of the acquisition is completed.

"While the public benefits of having this property in state ownership are many, we recognize that small, rural communities need our help in planning for the impacts a state facility has on their area - impacts of schools and roads for example -- and to provide some transitional funding until the economic benefits of the park are realized."

Natural Resources Department Director Brent Manning, who is responsible for managing the property, thanked Governor Ryan for agreeing to move forward with the acquisition.

"This announcement is history in the making," Manning said. "It demonstrates the Governor's strong commitment to investing in open space and in the people of southern Illinois."


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