The trails at Starved Rock State Park are beginning to loosen up for hikers after storm damage June 30 kept most footpaths closed.
Last week, trails were opened from Starved Rock Visitor Center and Starved Rock Lodge to Wildcat Canyon. Trails also are open to French Canyon, Starved Rock and to Lover’s Leap, Beehive and Eagle Cliff overlooks.
On the far east side of the park, trails are open to Council Overhang, to Ottawa, Kaskaskia and Illinois canyons and to Lone Point Shelter.
This has reduced the workload of ticket-writing for hikers entering closed trails, said Sgt. Hank Frazier of Illinois Conservation Police.
“It’s slowed down quite a bit because they have some of the park opened up and that gave people more room to go,” Frazier said Monday.
In the middle of the park remains a network of closures, mostly on forested, steep terrain. On Monday, a tree crew worked near LaSalle Canyon.
Down by the Illinois River, on the more-manicured riverside picnic area, a second crew took down and cut up whole trees, pruned broken limbs and chipped small branches. This area, from the boat ramp and east, also remains closed.
For the past two weeks, tree crews have split up, one up on the closed forested trails and the other down along Riverside.
On Monday, ranger Ron Sons updated natural resources coordinator Jolyn Wise on progress at Riverside.
“When you go down that way you’ll notice a big difference,” Sons said, pointing west toward the boat ramp.
The still-closed boat ramp area serves as a staging area for piles of debris, from logs to chips. Up on the trails, downed limbs are cleared away from trails but left in the forest.
At Riverside, lumberjack Quentin Zittle took a break to sharpen his chainsaw, running a round file across each saw tooth. Zittle was taking down large trees and limbs. One big tree like a cottonwood almost always required re-sharpening, he said.
Monday’s work was easier than trail assignments, which required “a lot of hiking, carrying in the gear, carrying it out every night,” Zittle said.
A 40-foot ladder was brought in to help, he said.
Some limbs along trails are too high for the ladder and climbing. For these, crews use an oversized slingshot, shooting a bean bag attached to a thin rope up and over a limb, Zittle said. Then they tie a heavy rope to the thin rope, pull the big rope over the limb, and pull the branch down, he said.
Riverside and the boat ramp should be completed by next week. But inspections must precede reopening, Sons said.
“What our intentions are is to get this side done, get it inspected and open it back up,” Sons said
Jeff Dankert can be reached at (815) 220-6977 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_Peru.