Editorial— Splash of Cold Water: Tell Rauner to Resume Work on the Super Splash Park

Pictured: Local Officials Gather at a Rally to Support the Super Splash Park.
Chris Wissmann

On March 11, new Illinois Department of Natural Resources director Wayne Rosenthal suspended the federal pass-through grant that was funding construction on the Super Splash Park Outdoor Aquatic Center. The order clearly originated from Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Work on the Splash Park, which the Park District says is sixty-two percent complete and was on track to open by Memorial Day weekend, ground to an immediate halt. Park projects throughout the state were also cut off from funding, according to Rich Miller’s Capitol Fax blog.

A state legislator was told this was due to shortfalls in a subsidized-daycare program run by the Illinois Department of Human Services, according to an aid who spoke to Nightlife. It’s a clearly preposterous proposition— it’s hard to believe that the federal government would allow pass-through grants for capital projects to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to get dumped into operating revenue for the Department of Human Services.

Rauner might be holding back park funding to bully the General Assembly into approving his proposed cuts to daycare subsidies and other social programs. If so, it’s either the kind of bumbling incompetence the public came to expect from Pat Quinn or the gratuitous mean-spiritedness that characterized Rod Blagojevich. So much for Rauner governing differently than his predecessors.

The Splash Park has overwhelming community support, as evidenced by the ongoing, herculean fundraising efforts that have far exceeded the local match.

This needless delay at a critical stage of construction will cost Carbondale construction jobs and perhaps complicate and make even more expensive the resumption of the project if the governor gets around to approving it. If he doesn’t, the governor will create a terrible financial burden on the Park District, which will need to somehow pay for a giant, useless hole in the ground— that it dug in good faith upon securing the grant and fulfilling its requirements— or go deep into debt to finish construction.

The project was carefully timed to open by the beginning of this summer. The governor, should he take his time in lifting his delay, will seriously erode operating revenue for the Splash Park when it is completed. This delay will cost jobs, for young people in particular, that are in seriously short supply in a college town where the economy goes into hibernation every summer.

Readers should visit <http://www.SaveSplashPark.com>. The site contains an email form through which the public can contact elected officials who can tell Rauner to get the project back on track so it can open as scheduled. Urge them to


help educate Rauner about the importance and legitimacy of the project, and ask him to immediately lift his delay. If he refuses, ask these legislators to pass a legislative end-run around not only this delay but others like it throughout the state. It’s hard to believe they won’t easily find a veto-proof majority in favor of such an act.

This article was revised on March 19, 2015.