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The resort at Eagle Creek State Park is shown in July. The 138-room resort, along with an 18-hole golf course and other recreational amenities opened in 1989 at Eagle Creek State Park. 

FINDLAY — After 10 years of inaction about what to do with the Eagle Creek property, state officials' latest idea to deal with the former resort near Findlay is to torch it.

Shelby County Board Chairman Chairman Dave Cruitt announced at a board meeting this week that's what the Illinois Department of Natural Resources is considering.

Eagle Creek closed in 2009 due to financial turmoil and mold infestation, costing the area tourism dollars and jobs. Because the resort rarely had 50 percent occupancy when it was open, officials one time suggested that a new one be built on a smaller scale.

The state's long-running budget impasse and a short-handed IDNR staff have slowed the redevelopment movement. Since it closed in 2009, the building has been vacant.

Only one proposal for re-development was submitted to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, in the spring of 2018, said Andrew Hansen, a spokesman for the Illinois Senate Republican Caucus. That proposal didn't get IDNR's approval.

The effort this past year came with a $500,000 backing from the state, according to the office of state Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet. The money could be used for demolition, construction, or reconstruction costs.

Cruitt said he and County Board Vice-Chairman Bruce Cannon met with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources about Eagle Creek two weeks ago. He said IDNR wants to demolish the buildings, Eagles Nest and the hotel, by burning them down. They want to clear the area off where the buildings are, seed it, and then try to get bids from developers. The golf course would not be affected.

"The idea is that most developers would prefer to come in and start from scratch," Cruitt said. "But the state can't take it down in a timely manner because of procurement laws. They wanted an inter-governmental agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. But that takes a lot of work to get it approved in the St. Louis District of the Corps and then to get approval in Washington, D.C. The simplest way to do it is to work this out with the county. And, I hope it does."

Cruitt says the area has been missing out on the development of the property for the past 10 years.

"We'll have a fresh footprint, where it can become a destination point, again," Cruitt said. "It would be a similar format as before, but just on a smaller scale, to get tourism and tax dollars. In the summer, there are limited places to stay around the lake."

He said IDNR wants to work with Shelby County on an inter-agency agreement to then remove the debris. The plan would be for IDNR to work with local fire departments and a fire training institute out of Champaign to use the burns for training. Cannon said the idea would be for IDNR to work with local departments on burning down Eagle's Nest, but to use the fire training institute for burning the hotel.

Cannon said the opportunity to have training on a burning hotel is rare, that's why the idea is for the institute to handle the hotel burns. He said there would be three burns: One for Eagle's Nest and two separate training burns at the hotel.

After the burns, the state would provide the funds for Shelby County to pay for someone to take away all the debris. It would cost the county nothing, according to Cannon. After the area is completely clean, it is expected that the state would bid out the property at Eagle Creek.


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