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Starved Rock State Park assistant superintendent Don Petre examines overhanging limbs this week on the Campanula Trail, one of many closed since a storm June 30. Park crews with outside help already have cut and cleared trees on trails but the state needs to award a bid to a professional tree service to remove overhanging limbs.
Three hikers came up Campanula Trail. They appeared surprised to see Don Petre, assistant superintendent at Starved Rock State Park.
Petre did them a favor.
“Ladies, I’m going to ask you to stay off any trails that are marked as closed,” he said, adding that a warden might hand them some costly tickets. The three hikers continued on toward the trail exit.
This was Monday, three weeks since a storm downed limbs and trees in the park. And although park crews with outside help have cleared trails of debris and repaired railings, boardwalks, stairways and bridges, about 90 percent of the park’s 13 miles of hiking trails remain closed this week.
Why is that? The answer is hanging over your head. The June 30 storm left a lot of broken limbs and trunks hanging over trails which could fall on hikers.
Even without a storm, park crews regularly remove fallen trees from the trails because most of the park is forested, Petre said. However, park employees are not trained and certified for tree-climbing work. So the Illinois Department of Natural Resources office in Springfield must award a bid to a tree service to remove overhead limbs, he said.
Not every branch is a threat, just the sizeable limbs that are split, cracked, toppled or show potential for breaking or falling onto the trail. Some are small limbs dangling loosely and others are big trees sharply tilted over trails.
“A lot of them are right over the trail and that’s why the trails are closed,” Petre said. “We just want everybody to be safe. Some of them have come down but there are so many of them out there. It’s strictly a safety thing. A lot of people wouldn’t even realize there’s a danger.”
A state engineer was called in to inspect the trails.
“We have taken contractors out there to climb trees to give us estimates on what that will cost,” Petre said.
Three bids were received last week and the state office has to award a contract, Petre said, adding that he has no timeline when a bid will be awarded and when work might start.
“It’s got to be bid,” Petre said. “We’ve got to wait for Springfield to give us the OK.”