A project five years in the making is finally finished in western Illinois. A brief ribbon cutting ceremony was held Monday afternoon to celebrate the reopening of the road around Argyle Lake State Park near Colchester.
Portions of the road were washed out by a flash flood in late June 2007, which forced the state to close half the park.
Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Marc Miller participated in the ceremony and he drove the road earlier in the day.
“I think this is one of the prettiest drives in any of our state parks,” Miller said. “It’s a wonderful road (and) it’s a bit of a challenging road, which makes it kind of fun too.”
Miller said the project cost $5 million. In addition to re-paving the entire road, the state installed larger box culverts, built new pads at the Big Oak campground, and added new parking spots. He said some trees still need to be planted and more speed limit signs will soon be posted.
Miller said he visited the park shortly after he became DNR director in 2009 so he had a first-hand look at the damage. He said Argyle Lake was one of DNR’s top priorities but it had to wait until the state was able to come up with the money to pay for the work.
Site Superintendent Robin Hinchee said park attendance was 300,000 last year. He said the number of visitors has dropped in the years since the flood force him to close half the site.
“Prior to it being closed in 2007, we were averaging close to 500,000,” Hinchee said. “So our attendance rates have dropped with the back part of the lake being closed. That cut off access to some of our primitive campsites and also access to some of our hunting areas in the back portion of the park.”
He anticipated attendance will rise again now that the full road is accessible. He called it “a great improvement” and said the numbers have already started to increase in the two weeks since the road re-opened.
Hinchee, Miller, and others at the ceremony praised the job done by general contractor R.A. Cullinan & Son of Tremont and the half-dozen subcontractors that worked on the project.