Want to Support State Parks This Holiday Season? Starved Rock Ornament First in Fundraising Series

The 2023 Starved Rock ornament from the Illinois Conservation Foundation. (Provided)The 2023 Starved Rock ornament from the Illinois Conservation Foundation. (Provided)

Illinois nature lovers can bring the state’s most famous outdoor treasures indoors, with a new series of holiday ornaments featuring state parks.

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“This is the beginning of a renewed focus for us of trying to raise money specially for state parks,” said Illinois Conservation Foundation director Steve Ettinger.

The debut ornament features the state’s most popular park: Starved Rock.

This year’s die-cast enamel ornament, which costs $15.99, has the year “2023” marked on the back; on the front is a colorful image of one of Starved Rock’s famous waterfalls.

The plan is to feature a different park each year, “so people can eventually have parks form all over the state if they want,” Ettinger said.

If it takes off, the ornament series could last a while: Illinois has 314 parks and natural areas, including historic sites, seven state forests and 56 fish and wildlife areas.

Millions of people visit Starved Rock annually, and Ettinger said he hopes that many will leap at the chance for a memento to hang on their Christmas tree.

In the few days since the ornaments were announced, more than 100 of the limited run of 250 were sold.

All proceeds will support state parks and natural areas.

The organization is hoping to sell at least 200, which would raise about $2,000 for Illinois’ parks.

Alternatively, individuals who become an Illinois Conservation Foundation member and contribute $5 per month will automatically receive an ornament.

Ettinger said the foundation plans to produce an annual ornament as long as there’s interest.

“There are plenty of state parks that we could highlight,” he said. “Going forward we’re happy to take suggestions; otherwise, we’ll pick them from different geographical areas.”

As a state agency, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources can’t accept donations.

The nonprofit Illinois Conservation Foundation, which receives no taxpayer money, was incorporated in 1995 to privately fundraise to support the department’s mission and projects.

In recent years the foundation helped pay for the restoration of the 50-foot Loredo Taft-designed Black Hawk statue at Ogle County’s Lowden State Park — with the addition of a kayak launch, bike fix-it station, accessible sidewalks and an accessible fishing pier at the William Powers recreation area on Chicago’s Southeast Side.

The foundation also works to recruit participants from non-traditional backgrounds and supports events like a mentored youth fishing tournament to teach kids how to participate in fishing competitions.

Future projects could include installing playgrounds at campgrounds or helping pay to fix a roof of a structure at a conservation area.

“It just depends on the needs of the agency,” Ettinger said. “Anything involving health and safety is at the top of the list.”

With Christmas in days, you may not want to count on the ornament as a stocking stuffer.

“We’ll package them up the same day they’re ordered, so it all depends on shipping,” Ettinger said. “We’re not Amazon. We’re only a staff of three people.”

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