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    Rep. Dan Swanson working for funding to restore state historic sites

    By Sharon Wren,

    28 days ago

    Bishop Hill was recently listed on Landmarks Illinois’ list of the Ten Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois . According to a news release, the site was “threatened since the Illinois Department of Natural Resources has not been provided with sufficient funding to properly maintain the site.”

    State Representative Dan Swanson (R-Alpha) has been trying to get state funding for these sites for years. Back in July of 2021, he hosted IDNR director Colleen Callahan and later Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton to discuss the situation. “I wanted to bring awareness to the director of IDNR, who had responsibility for Bishop Hill, and also the lieutenant governor to try and bring attention at the executive level to what we were dealing with,” he told Our Quad Cities News via Zoom. “Fortunately, they both agreed that hey, something needs to be done. Unfortunately, nothing was done.”

    Swanson said the lack of maintenance has led to the need for drastic renovations at both Bishop Hill and the Carl Sandburg birthplace in Galesburg. “It’s been ignored for so long that those things that need to be patched and fixed and it needs to be done quickly. Deferred maintenance creates larger maintenance issues.”

    He says an $800 million budget shortfall for the state is part of the problem. “It (the deferred maintenance) didn’t happen overnight. It’s been a long, progressive event and we’ve continued to bring that to the attention of others, and it just seems to be falling on deaf ears.”

    Swanson says residents who are concerned about these sites can contact the state’s executive branch by emailing, calling or writing to the governor. “I feel we’re well represented in the district with Representative Weaver and Senator (Neil) Anderson (R, 47 th District). They know the concerns. I know the concerns. Senator (Mike) Halpin (D-72 nd District) is involved, and he understands the concerns.”

    Swanson recently spoke on the House floor about Senate Bill 2976 . Among other things, the bill would remove distinctions between state historic sites, state memorials and miscellaneous properties. It would authorize the State Historic Preservation Board to modify, remove or add properties to the list of state historic sites.

    “State-owned properties like the Carl Sandburg Birthplace and Bishop Hill have been neglected and deprioritized for too long,” said Travis Weaver (R-Edwards). “I am optimistic this legislation will help these properties get the attention they need.

    Carl Sandburg’s birthplace in Galesburg is also in dire need of repairs, said Swanson. “The roof, leaking ceilings need repaired. The list is quite lengthy; close to a half million dollars in repairs required there.” Repairing these sites is more than protecting history, he said. “It’s important, we need to get these fixed. They bring in revenue; we forget that they bring in revenue to our state and to our cities and to our counties.”

    Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as organizing a fundraiser or GoFundMe page for the repairs. “The estimates for Bishop Hill are around $22 million. That’s a lot of money for an association to try and tackle. It’s gonna take a big crew to come in and bring it back up to any type of standards. I know there have been some people who have said hey, I’d like to help donate but $22 million and then a half million dollars in Galesburg? So yeah, it’s a lot of money.”

    Bishop Hill has played a big part in Swanson’s family. “It’s just so many memories there. Not only my generation, my dad’s generation, my grandfather’s generation, going there to Bishop Hill for family reunions at Bishop Hill Park. As a child, we would go there often for Fourth of July celebrations and other events. I actually took a class at Western Illinois University called Bishop Hill, a couple of weekend classes, so I learned a lot more details.”

    “We’ve had several Honor Flight fundraisers there. But it would be to bring tears to many people’s eyes if we’re not able to save the church and other sites in Bishop Hill and Galesburg.”

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