$2.7 million project will performed by Southwestern Illinois building and construction trades
By CARL GREEN
Metro East trades and construction union members will soon be making major improvements to one of Illinois’ most beloved and historic places – Pere Marquette State Park.
The 8,000-acre park is Illinois’ largest state park and sits alongside the Illinois River north of Grafton in Jersey County.
In addition to rugged hiking and horseback trails, its main feature is the large lodge built during the Great Depression by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).
The lodge was built between 1933 and 1939 for $352,912 using poles of up to three feet in diameter of cypress and Douglas fir. Limestone from the Grafton quarry was used for cabins, the floor and a 700-ton fireplace that dominates the lobby.
The lodge has 50 guest rooms, 22 stone cabins, a 150-seat dining room and 2,900 square feet of meeting space, and continues to this day serving as a hotel, restaurant and meeting place for weddings and other large gatherings.
Restoring the lodge and grounds will be performed by local contractors through Project Labor Agreements with the Southwestern Illinois Building and Construction Trades Council.
BEST KEPT SECRET
Dale Stewart, executive secretary of the Trades Council, said weekends especially find the park full of nature lovers.
“It’s one of our best-kept secrets here in Illinois,” he said. “It just seems like everybody’s out there sometimes.”
Chris Young of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources said the work includes replacing the lodge roof, which involves removing old cedar shakes and installing new ones and replacing rotted wood decking, plus new copper flashing and cedar breather.
Other parts of the project are:
- WALKWAY – Removing and replacing 9,108 square feet of sidewalk.
- FRESH PAINT – Preparing, caulking and painting or staining the exterior.
- IRRIGATION – Installing an automatic irrigation system for lawn and planter beds in areas adjacent to the lodge and on the grounds between the lodge and cabins, and providing positive drainage for the irrigation system.
- LAWN CARE – Seeding and mulch in all disturbed areas.
That part of the work is valued at $1,479,000.
Another part of the project is resurfacing and rehabilitation of the 4.41 miles of the Vadalabene Bike Trail in the park boundaries, valued at $1,258,000.
That work includes base and pothole repairs, rebuilding dips and shoulders, re-cutting trail ditches, clearing vegetation and selected trees, and complete trail resurfacing, with striping, signage, guard rail repairs, bridge and bridge deck replacements, security gates, vehicle barriers, site grading and drainage improvements, and tree plantings.
The section is the westernmost part of the scenic trail, which extends eastward to Alton along the Great River Road.
THE RAUNER EFFECT?
Stewart is concerned that this kind of contract will be hard to win for union workers under the new Republican administration of Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner, who has made it clear he is no friend to unions and who will have control over state government administrative functions such as state parks.
Under Democratic Party governors, departments such as the Department of Natural Resources for the past 12 years have made sure that this kind of work goes to union contractors, Stewart said.
Before that, local union contractors faced competition from non-union Missouri contractors for such jobs, he said, and that could happen again.
“It definitely could have a major effect on us,” he said. “Our lives are going to change, going forward.”
CENTURIES OF HISTORY
Pere Marquette State Park is named for the Jesuit missionary Father Jacques Marquette, who explored the upper Mississippi River along with Louis Jolliet from 1673 until his death from illness in 1675.