March 28, 2017 Cloudy, 45°F

State buys part of former Sinnissippi tree farm

OREGON – The state has bought 64 acres of the former Sinnissippi Forest Christmas tree farm for $450,000 and is adding the parcel to Lowden-Miller State Forest.

The purchase, one of four land deals meant to boost public access to hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing and outdoor recreation, will provide access to the eastern part of the forest, Gov. Pat Quinn’s office said in a news release Wednesday.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources will use the buildings on the site for satellite offices and equipment storage, Director Marc Miller said.

The state park is named for Illinois Gov. Frank Lowden, an advocate of reforestation who was responsible for planting 500,000 trees.

Warren Miller (no relation) is a former owner of the Christmas tree business and Lowden’s grandson.

“Twenty years ago, my late wife, Nancy, and I took great pleasure in the creation of Lowden-Miller State Forest, knowing that the people of Illinois would now be able to enjoy this magnificent part of the Rock River Valley,” Miller said in the release.

“When we reluctantly closed our Christmas tree operation in 2010, it was my hope that this tract could be added to the state forest. I am extremely pleased that we’ve finally been able to do so.”

The state also bought a Pike County parcel for $1.8 million; Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge in McHenry County for $511,000, and Kickapoo State Recreation Area in Vermilion County for $25,000.

They were bought through the Illinois Open Lands Trust, which is funded by Quinn’s 2009 Illinois Jobs Now! capital program.

The newly acquired parkland, once open, will have operating expenses, but IDNR Director Miller said a $2 increase in license plate fees that Quinn signed into law in December will produce as much as $25 million a year for park upkeep and repair when receipts start arriving in Springfield later this spring.

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