PdR national park effort gets boost

Good news for Prairie du Rocher and the surrounding community could not have come at a better time.

Efforts by local politicians, leaders, residents and friends of Prairie du Rocher to have the village’s French colonial district recognized as a national park are closer to reality after the U.S. Department of the Interior granted a request to conduct a reconnaissance survey of the area by the National Park Service.

The news comes as new Federal Emergency Management Agency flood maps were introduced Aug. 5. These new maps show most of Prairie du Rocher in  a “special flood hazard area” as a result of levees near the village losing accreditation.

Having parts of Prairie du Rocher recognized as a national park would make federal funds obtainable for use in updating surrounding  levee systems.

“We’re pretty ecstatic,” said Prairie du Rocher Village President Ray Cole. “With the recent change in flood plain status, the news is really a bright spot… to have it happen this quickly is really gratifying.”

Cole also noted there will be a plan to address the levee system issue, but having federal funds for the project would make the plans more feasible and less expensive. 

The Prairie du Rocher Chamber of Commerce posted on its Facebook page Friday that the request of U.S. Congressman Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro) and local letters of support helped to have the request granted. The survey and findings are not anticipated until late 2020 at the earliest, but with positive results the district could attain national park status in time for the 300th anniversary of Prairie du Rocher in 2022.

The chamber asks those who want to see the village carry on into the future continue to show support by writing letters to the National Park Service.

“The park system needs to understand how important this is to our area – not just in Prairie du Rocher, but all the neighboring counties, and even Illinois as a whole,” the chamber wrote, adding that “each letter received raises the level of importance up another notch, so we need as many letters as possible stating you are excited about the idea.”

“There’s a lot here to save,” Cole said, noting that a national park would “elevate the status of the area.”

Those who wish to write a letter of support may send communications to Prairie du Rocher Village Hall by mail or by email to pdrvc@htc.net.

In other area news, the annual Rendezvous at Fort de Chartres in Prairie du Rocher has been postponed to 2021 due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis. 

Les Amis du Fort de Chartres said the 300th anniversary of Fort de Chartres and 50th anniversary of Rendezvous will be celebrated June 5-6, 2021. Both milestones were set to be celebrated in 2020. 

“All event funds raised this year thus far will be used to plan and present fort events in 2021, once the state of Illinois enters Phase 5 status,” Les Amis du Fort de Chartres President Jennifer Duensing said. “We understand this has been a challenging and disappointing year for events at Fort de Chartres, but the health and safety of our visitors and participants is our top priority.”

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Scott Woodsmall

HTC web