Efforts continue for PDR, fort

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Those who want to see Prairie du Rocher carry on for another 300 years received some help from U.S. Congressman Mike Bost when he sent a letter to U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary David Bernhardt requesting the village be the subject of a study by the National Park Service.

The goal of the study would be to eventually attain National Historic Park status for sites in the area. The designation would allow access to federal funds for improvement of the local levee systems that could lose FEMA accreditation as soon as next month. 

The letter from Bost, sent earlier this month, comes after the Steering Committee of the Community Foundation of Prairie du Rocher released its Prairie du Rocher/Modoc/Edgar Lakes Levee District Strategic Plan in April. 

The literature was sent in a print edition to local, state and federal officials and also made available online. The plan outlines the history, current conditions and future plans as a way to “ensure the long-term viability of the region protected by the levee system.”

The online version of the strategic plan may be found at visitprairiedurocher.com.

The idea for the strategic plan literature was presented by the committee in January during a public meeting in Prairie du Rocher as a way to maintain the viability of the village by requesting politicians and other officials help with obtaining national park status for the village.

The literature states that the future of Prairie du Rocher could be protected either by establishing a national park in the area or by expanding the existing Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park in Missouri to include the Prairie du Rocher French Colonial District.

“By doing so, Prairie du Rocher can secure the protection and preservation by providing a perennial funding source for the historic places named within the area, as well as a larger voice to advocate for the accreditation of the levee system. This step is crucial for the continued maintenance of the levee system as well as the preservation of the historic resources,” the plan states. 

Chris Martin, Randolph County Economic Development Coordinator and member of the Randolph County Progress Committee, wrote “a positive study outcome is paramount” in an email to Randolph County chambers of commerce requesting letters of support for the park initiative. 

“In addition to the prestige of a national park in southwest Illinois, the economic benefits for our region are enormous,” he added.  

Bost wrote in his letter that he believes a reconnaissance survey by the NPS “will validate the area as worthy of National Park designation” in Prairie du Rocher, citing Fort de Chartres, the Pierre Menard Home, the Creole House and several other sites as representative locations. 

Bost also said in a press release that the “French Historic District in Randolph County is integral to the formation of the United States,” adding that “the saga involves the French, the British and ultimately, a fledgling republic. A National Park designation will help tell the story of where Illinois began, the Kaskaskia-Cahokia Trail, and how the U.S. expanded from here.” 

Bost also expressed hope the park designation would be established in time to coincide with the 300th anniversary of the founding of Prairie du Rocher in 2022.

There was also good news for Fort de Chartres, a Prairie du Rocher attraction celebrating its 300th birthday this year. 

Les Amis du Fort de Chartres, an organization responsible for the upkeep of the fort, recently announced a $100,000 capital campaign to restore the front land gate area that serves as the main public entrance to the fort complex.

“It’s no secret that repairs need to be made,” said Les Amis president Jennifer Duensing, who also reported that over $25,000 has already been raised for the repairs campaign.

The campaign was recently approved by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Since its approval, Les Amis has applied for and been awarded several grants, although donations are accepted from anyone who wishes to contribute. 

The fort, an Illinois state historic site, was built in 1720 as a French fortification. It currently hosts annual events such as Rendezvous. The 50th anniversary Rendezvous has been tentatively rescheduled for Sept. 12-13 due to COVID-19.

For more information about Fort de Chartres, including how to donate, visit  fortdechartres.us.      

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