Starved Rock State Park lacks a single trail accessible to people with physical disabilities. The "For the Love of Starved Rock" campaign aims to change that.
Amy Trimble is the president of Starved Rock Lodge and Conference Center. She said the new wheelchair and stroller-friendly trail will start at the parking lot and wind behind the lodge's cabins.
"There'll be a scenic overlook facing one of the canyons. So it'll be a great little addition to the park that anybody who has mobility problems will be able to enjoy," she said.
A group called the Starved Rock Walkers is spearheading the accessible trail project. It's the first goal of the new fundraising effort.
Starved Rock State Park is one of the most popular hiking destinations in the country, with 2.5 million visitors last year.
But high volumes of people and erosion led to heavy wear and tear on the park's scenic trails and canyons. Efforts to begin charging parking fees at Starved Rock State Park to generate additional maintenance funds failed in recent years.
"It's getting more and more difficult for the state to provide all of the funding for those trail improvements," Trimble said. "And so a group of us got together and decided that we would try to raise money in conjunction with the state to get these trails fixed."
The group also hopes to raise money to repair a bridge over Tonti Canyon and address erosion issues at LaSalle Canyon so trails can reopen.
State Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris) is also contributing money. Formal fundraising efforts start on April 5 with a dinner at the Starved Rock Lodge's Great Hall. Trimble said a website will launch soon.
The initial fundraising goal is $500,000.