by Robert D. Espeseth
"Just outside Chicago is a place called Illinois," was a slogan popularized by the Illinois Office of Tourism several years ago. Many people got "a chuckle" from the words, but this slogan has a much deeper meaning when thought of in the context of outdoor recreation or tourism. Illinois has been a net exporter of vacationers ("tourists" to the people from the locale to where they migrate) primarily to the immediately surrounding states but also to many other "vacation destination states." Illinoisans are noted for being travellers of wide reknown. For too long the image of Illinois has been, "Chicago, corn and soybeans" not only to people from outside the state but to many Illinois residents as well, which has contributed to the outward view for vacation opportunities.
For a number of generations the outward migration for vacationing pleasure has been commonplace. It is not a recent phenomenon. The Chicago metropolitan area is the largest and best tourism market in the Midwest, possibly in the country, as evidenced by the advertising strategy of surrounding states which "focus in" on the Chicago market. Tourism organizations and businesses in surrounding states have saturated the Chicago market with advertising for outdoor recreation opportunities to a greater degree than have similar groups in the state of Illinois. The Chicago market has responded to this advertising by travelling to other states and spending millions of dollars in the process. Therefore, the Chicago market has been a net exporter of tourism dollars to the surrounding states. Although many conventioners and travellers do expend millions of dollars in the Chicago area, there has never been a study to determine what the spending differential might be between the dollars exported out of the state and income derived from out-of-state travellers to the Chicago area.
Recent economic developments, including the rise in fuel costs, require that new strategies be developed for attracting Illinois
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residents to the excellent recreational opportunities which exist within their state. By staying within the state of Illinois for vacationing and outdoor recreation activities, gas consumption may be reduced and needed dollars will stay in Illinois to enhance the overall state economy. There are a wide variety of accommodations and activities which recreation vacationers have available in the state of Illinois. All that people have to do is take the time to find out where these excellent opportunities exist.
The private sector provides many resorts, lodges and campgrounds with a wide range of activities and facilities. In the public sector there are many excellent state parks and recreation areas operated by the Illinois Department of Conservation, good facilities at the large reservoirs in central Illinois provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and fine facilities in southern Illinois provided by the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. On the local level a number of counties throughout the state operate excellent recreation facilities and some municipal agencies also provide campgrounds and outdoor recreational opportunities in addition to more urban facilities.
In a recent study completed by the Office of Recreation and Park Resources at the University of Illinois (an office jointly sponsored by the Cooperative Extension Service and the Department of Leisure Studies) entitled Campground Distribution in Illinois, it was found that there are almost 400 campgrounds and almost 50,000 campsites in the state provided by both the public and private sectors. The accompanying map (Figure 1) provides a graphic indication of the campground distribution by county. Only 12 counties in the entire state do not have any indicated campgrounds. Some trends which were observed in analyzing the data indicated that the northern region of the state has the largest number of campsites (17,386) of which only 20% (3,624) are publicly owned. The southern region, in contrast, has fewer sites (9,811) and of these 43 % (4,224) are in the public sector. A similar comparison was made between the central and western regions which indicated
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that the total sites were comparable, 11,081 for the central region and 11, 341 for the western region; however, the central region has almost twice as many publicly owned sites (3,562 or 32 %) as the western region (2,015 or 18%). These figures indicate a higher concentration of privately owned campgrounds in the northern and western regions. The regions which were used as a frame of reference are the Illinois Tourism Regions.
The western region leads the state with an average of 167 sites per campground followed by the northern with 163 sites per campground. It is interesting to note that these two regions have the lower percentages of publicly owned sites. The central region averages 118 sites per campground while the southern region averages only 86 sites and has the highest concentration of publicly owned sites of any region.
Table 1 indicates the relative breakdown between public and private sector campgrounds and Table 2 shows a further breakdown of public campgrounds by state, federal, county and municipal levels. A copy of the entire study can be obtained by requesting publication - ORPR-56 from the Office of Recreation and Park Resources, University of Illinois, Huff Gymnasium, Champaign, IL 61820.
Camping is only one of the many outdoor recreation activities available in the state for Illinois citizens. Camping facilities run the gamut from primitive backpacking in the Shawnee National Forest to complete recreation vehicle hookups, recreation programs and other activities which are available at many of the privately operated campgrounds throughout the state. For additional information on camping opportunities in Illinois write to the Illinois Office of Tourism, 222 South College Street, Springfield, IL 62706 or the Illinois Department of Conservation, 605 State Office Building, Springfield, IL 62706 or the Illinois Department of Conservation, 605 State Office Building, Springfield, IL 62706 and request "Roughing It, Illinois Camping Guide" and the brochure on "Illinois State Recreational Areas." Many other publications on Illinois can be obtained from these agencies to assist in planning a vacation or outing in this great state.
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