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Guest Blog

Buckhorn Unit an ATV Park?

Sat, June 28, 2014


Just when you think the Illinois Department of Natural Resources could not be more negligent with Illinois deer management, they step farther into the abyss that causes deer hunters to despise them. The federal government granted the state of Illinois funds to buy 2,250-acre Buckhorn Unit more than a decade ago. The IDNR’s annual budgets since this purchase have been so menial that Buckhorn’s maintenance has been nearly nonexistent.

Decrepit, dangerous buildings are still standing in this public area. The Buckhorn, however, does provide thousands of resident-only deer hunters, small game hunters, fishermen, mushroom seekers and hikers a great place to enjoy the sights and whispers of nature. This may end soon if Director Marc Miller gets his way!

It is strongly rumored that Miller wants to turn this park into “The Midwest’s Biggest and Best ATV Park.” It’s said that he wishes to draw ATV enthusiasts from all across the Midwest. Most of us would rather see non-residents stay in their own state and tear up their own public land. My guess is there is some politician getting under-the-table money to make this happen. If this does transpire, there’s little doubt that a private concessionaire will ultimately reap (or rape) the profits.

It’s also rumored that the restricted third of 3,300-acre Siloam Springs Park, used for campers and hikers, will now be open to deer hunting. This was a great whitetail sanctuary in an over-hunted area. Worse yet, it’s being considered to lift the cap on non-residents during the four-week rut period. It seems that fewer non-residents showing up at the park is reasoning for this change. Could it be that out-of-staters now realize that Illinois is no longer producing its Midwest share of trophy bucks?

The in-and-out traffic of vehicles and camping trailers coming to a Buckhorn ATV Park will surely boost the cost of maintaining Brown County roadways, which could mean higher property taxes. Camping trailers? Oh yes, Miller is also considering a large camping area for the ATV people. Funny, the IDNR can’t even properly maintain the parks in operation now.

The present IDNR administration is destroying our deer herd; they have not hired an adequate number of wildlife biologists or game wardens; they have not kept some of their own higher-ups ethically in line; they do a less than marginal job of maintaining downstate parks; and yet they can find the resources to build an ATV park. I pity the landowners within five miles of Buckhorn who thought they were leaving behind the noises of the city. The constant BUZZ of ATV exhaust pipes will fill the airways for miles on a quiet day. Hunting in peace and quiet in Buckhorn, or on bordering ground, will be a thing of the past.

No doubt this rumor, that may soon be reality, could have financing semblance to the IDNR “One Natural Resources Way” complex built almost decade and a half ago. Our reputable DNR director at the time, Brent Manning, proposed the building to be purchased by the IDNR with a payoff of 20 years. Governor Edgar approved Manning’s plan to fund the building and own it.

One Natural Resources Way was no more than built when new Democratic Governor Blagojevich took office and sold the building to the Central Management Services, another division of the State. The State now owns this complex and rents it back to the IDNR. So what’s wrong with this arrangement? Those IDNR rent payments go into the General Fund forever, having the potential to not benefit Illinois wildlife. Had the IDNR retained ownership, they would own the building in another half-decade and future rent money would stay in the IDNR’s bank account. I was in this building in February. The building and grounds were poorly kept. Sad deal!

Let’s not let the Buckhorn become an ATV Park. If this does happen, a concessionaire will operate it and no profit will ever benefit Illinois wildlife. Call Senator Sullivan and complain! Call IDNR Director Marc Miller and tell him to put the ATV Park somewhere where the traffic and noise won’t be noticed…Chicago!


I once heard that when they were changing from the IL Dept of Conservation to the ILDNR it would decimate wildlife conservation in the State of IL. No words have ever been more true…..Sad…....

Posted by ToddC on June 28

The whole idea to make buckhorn an atv park is insane. Just goes to show that ill dnr is a freaking joke…......

Posted by WhitetailFreak on June 28

They are picking the worst possible place for the ATV park.
#1. The high quality wildlife habitat present on Buckhorn will be destroyed. Most states that do this use old strip mine lands. Not IL. we use some of our precious and limited hunting ground.
#2. Buckhorn is primarily Hickory type soils. High erosion soil type that will wind up destroying water quality downstream from the park. The initial management plan for Buckhorn when it was purchased stated that the cattle that were present on the property so damaged the environment that it would take years to recover. So ATV’s cause less damage than cattle? Only in the IDNR world.
#3. LOTS of accidents happen with ATV’s and ATV parks. Response time to the nearest Trauma Center (Quincy) from call to delivery will be well over an hour. So much for saving lives in the “Golden hour” for EMS. Missouri has two ATV parks, both located on strip mine ground of course. They located them 3 miles and 12 miles respectively from the nearest Trauma Center.
#4. CPO’s will not be able to police the place. They only have an average of 2 on duty in the district of 8 counties on weekends. They have 8 counties, over 90 miles of the IL. river and over 100 miles of the Miss. River, plus all the hunting and fishing to cover. What will go uncovered so the ATV park can have CPO’s to babysit? They don’t even have an ATV to patrol the place with.
#5. Tiny little Brown County will get screwed in this deal. Their small Sheriff’s Dept. will get stuck with the calls. Their volunteer ambulance service will get hosed. The age group of the users of ATV parks frequently do not have insurance- the EMS/hospital bills will go unpaid.
#6. Siloam Springs State Park has like 3 staff to run Buckhorn, Siloam and Fall Creek. Yep they can handle the extra demands of ATV riders.
#7. When Buckhorn was purchased the DNR stated it was to be managed as a “low impact” area. ATV’s are not low impact. They also stated that it was to be used as a public hunting area because of the shortage of public areas available for hunters. When did we reach the point where hunters have a surplus of hunting areas? They now say that hunting and ATV’s screaming around the area are compatible and they will still allow the hunters to hunt. That is quality hunting for sure and I don’t know what dream world they are living in to say that ATV’s will not severely impact wildlife and hunting. If ATV’s don’t affect wildlife negatively then why does the DNR not allow the public to use them in all parks and nature preserves?
  This whole thing reeks of another backroom political deal, business as usual in Illinois.

Posted by The Colonel on June 29

Colonel - I especially like that you pointed out how burdensome this would be on local public safety providers, and the lack of a reasonably close trauma center. So often details such as these are lost in the shuffle. As a former rural EMS provider this just makes me shudder.

Posted by G on June 29

Colonel, did you ever think that they are trying to win a Darwin Award?

Posted by riverrat47 on June 29

I’m sure its not close to any private clubs Marc Miller gets to hunt, wouldn’t want it in my backyard either.  Fix the Parks that have been neglected for so long before you start these new projects.

Posted by BIGPOND on June 30

Les, thanks for the heads up on the ATV Park.  This is the most rediculous thing I have heard, however it doesn’t surprise me.  Colonel you made some very good and valid statements on the impact of this ATV Park.  If I was a landowner close to the Buckhorn I would be in my truck heading to springfield demanding a meeting with Miller. This would ruin that area!

Posted by hunter4life on June 30

Wow, this is the worst thing I could posssibly hear as I just got back into Bow hunting last year.  This not only will ruin Buckhorn but any surrounding neihbors of Buckhorn.  I truly hope a petition can get started to prevent this nonsense.  Wander if they are even considering the Enviromental Impact this would have.

Posted by The Gerb on June 30

im gonna get bashed hardcore for this one but owell here it goes!!!!!!!!! i have never been to Buckhorn or any place like that being in richland county but i am actually for ATV parks!!!!!!!! i understand the complaints you all have but lets be a little selfish… there are people out there who dont hunt fish etc…. and the ATV/UTV riding is how they spend their times in the outdoors with family…I am a deer hunter but i also love to hop on my Atv and ride with everyone bashing the ideas of parks and such you are stripping people of their love how would you all like being ban from hunting parks like this wouldnt like it would ya…..... With the IDNR trying to push a $15 sticker on us ATV riders we need a place to go because im not about to pay to ride private land they actually need to open a park for the ATV/UTV lovers thats my opinion love it hate it do what ya want but dont be so selfish

Posted by longbow on June 30

Longbow- I am not going to bash you, and in fact I believe that IL. does need to have an ATV park or two. I just want them to use the right type of property, with the right infrastructure and do it right. Buckhorn is not that type of property. It was purchased as a wildlife/hunting area and that is the best use for that property. The DNR already owns a number of reclaimed strip mine areas and there are others that the coal companies would like to get rid of. That is the right class of property- pick one of those that is close to EMS facilities and go the correct route.

Posted by The Colonel on July 01

Colonel, remind your buddy miller that “Belly Acres” would be perfect for an ATV park! and the owner would never be heard from again on deer issues!

Posted by walmsley on July 02

I am an outdoorsman, I hunt deer (Archery and Shotgun)and small game, I love to fish (I love to eat fish),canoe, hike, camp, mushroom/frog hunt, and ride and race Dirtbikes. Although I strongly agree Illinois needs an OHV park, I have absolutely NO faith in it ever being as well funded or managed as our surrounding states. This whole “ATV Park” in Illinois is about $$$ and how greedy Chicago politicians can get more of it ($$$) to misspend and funnel into their back pockets! I called and spoke to the person in charge of this “OHV sticker bill” when it first hit the web and was assured the money “had to be used” for OHV parks and the state was currently looking at requiring reclaimed strip mine ground “southwest of Havana/Beardstown area and south of Pana area”. This was over a year ago and they did revamp the OHV sticker bill a little but the kicker is you will need a title to be stickered, with a canoe or snowmobile your registration is your title BUT if you have an older ATV or Dirtbike that didn’t come with title you will have to spend more $$$ to be stickered/legal. Sorry about the rant but a lot of people are unaware of the fine print associated with this “OHV sticker” bill.
With that said I fully agree the state should be looking at reclaimed strip mine ground, I told them the more rugged and useless terrain the better for everyone. THE COLONEL has an excellent point that this proposed park should be near a capable EMS facility, accidents can and do happen, and Offroading is very much a family oriented sport. Another outdoorsman and I rode our Dirtbikes at Brushy Ridge in southwestern Fulton county Sunday, we met whole families on ATV’s and a couple Husband/Wife’s on Dirtbikes enjoying the trail, we also saw deer, in a riding park that see’s a lot of use. Would I want to share space with OHV’s at my local state park that allows Bowhunting? Hell no, horses are bad enough, and it shouldn’t even be considered. I will say if it does happen I would give anything to be on adjoining property with bow in hand. But maybe this is just another rumor started by the same person who started the “Sand ridge state forest to open “ATV park” over on Thumpertalk forum.

Posted by mohican on July 08

I to enjoy riding my ATV but never in or near my hunting areas, only used to access my areas. The points set forth by the Colonel are well spoken, he obviously knows what he is talking about.  In past years I as a NR-bow and gun hunter have actually hunted private property adjoining the Buckhorn. What a big mistake it would be to turn such excellent hunting property into a ATV park!!! Not only would it ruin the outdoor experiences enjoyed by many that use the Buckhorn, but what about the adjoining landowners, can one imagine what a ATV park would do the property values of landowners adjoining or near to a huge ATV park!! The ILDNR needs to set back and take a long look at the problems they have now and the lack of proper management of all of the outdoor assets they have and do to mismanagement are slipping away.  I have hunted in Ill. for 18 years and have first hand seen what poor management has done to the deer herd, and now to turn some of the best public hunting (even though as a NR I can’t hunt) into a ATV park is and if carried through one of the biggest mistakes they have made. Sportsman and landowners should be up in arms to fight such a ridiculous attempt!!! AS always Les, GOOD JOB!!!!!!

Posted by VAhunter on July 08

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