When I first started backpacking, I was always looking for a place to practice. You remember? Getting excited when your lightweight gear came in the mail and you wanted to test it out that night. One of the places I darted off to was my local State Park. Sandridge State Park in Central Illinois had a lot to offer. One, because it had a 14 mile long trail, it was all sand, it was all Pine, and it had remote backpacking sites away from the general camp site. What more could I want?
Sad to report however, that budget cuts are destroying what so many enjoy. The Illinois General Assembly for expample; the current administration decided to layoff front-line employees from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, many of whom are career land managers at state parks across the state. Illinois has some of the finest natural areas in the country. The state presents a variety of habitat and wildlife unseen in many other states.
I started going to Sandridge State Park back in 2000, and it was clean and abundant with out of town visitors. The forest is an island in a sea of agriculture. Just minutes southwest of Peoria, this 7,200-acre, the largest of Illinois’ State Forests, boasts sweeping expanses of native oak-hickory, extensive plantations of pine, sprawling open fields, grasslands, and completely unique sand prairies. For a refreshing, invigorating taste of unspoiled nature and an opportunity to experience truly unique environment, Sand Ridge State Forest is ideal.
Forty-four miles of marked trails, ranging from 1.6 to 17 miles each, and 120 miles of fire lanes offer unequaled opportunities to the hiker, back packer, horseback rider or snowmobiler.
In recent years, I have seen some of the park starting to look “unkept”. It’s still an awesome place for the beginning backpacker. It still offers remote backpacking sites, and lots of wildlife. LOTS. However, if maintaining State Parks doesn’t become more important to our State Legislators, States like Illinois will loose a rich and vibrant use of land, and revenue that help maintain local economy.
You can see more Images of Sandridge State Park, here