July 23, 2019

Discover what the future may hold for the World Shooting and Recreational Complex and Pyramid State Recreation Area

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — For more than a year, Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Innovation and Economic Development office has been facilitating extensive studies and gathering public input to plot future courses for two regional gems, Pyramid State Recreation Area in Perry County and the World Shooting and Recreational Complex in Randolph County.

The strategic planning report and recommendations created on the basis of all of this research will be introduced at a public meeting at 4 p.m. on Aug. 5 at the World Shooting and Recreational Complex Main Event Center in Sparta. Everyone is invited to attend.

Chancellor John M. Dunn and the SIU team led by Lynn Andersen Lindberg, interim executive director of SIU’s Office of Innovation and Economic Development, along with Deborah Barnett, director of the Small Business Incubator Program within the SIU Research Park, will represent the university at the meeting.

Colleen Callahan, director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, will be in attendance as will Senator Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo, and representatives of the task force groups assembled to tackle the projects.

“It has been a privilege for the SIU team to facilitate both task forces,” said Dunn. “We have been so impressed with the passion for and dedication to the parks from so many individuals and organizations. Their input is critical to the ongoing success of PSRA and WSRC’s facilities, programs, and diverse activities for years to come.”

How it all began

IDNR and SIU inked memoranda of understanding in May 2018, facilitated by Schimpf, who represents the 58th District wherein both recreational areas reside. The late Carlo Montemagno, then chancellor at SIU, brought the SIU Office of Innovation and Economic Development, then led by Kyle Harfst, aboard to lead the planning process.

The goal of the partnership is to analyze the current strengths and weaknesses of each facility as well as their infrastructure requirements and potential for growth in order to create plans for each to reach its maximum potential for use and economic growth with consideration given to the natural elements as well.

Ultimately, proponents hope to begin implementation of the goals and objectives established through this initiative and seek local, state, volunteer and grant resources to accomplish those goals.

A natural treasure and economic boon

Pyramid State Recreation Area is the largest state park in Illinois, encompassing 19,701 acres in southwestern Perry County.

Its reclaimed surface mine ground features large, deep lakes and grasslands that are home to numerous species of wildlife and waterfowl. Outdoor enthusiasts from across the Midwest utilize the park for a wide variety of individual and group activities, including fishing, field trials, reenactments and much more.

The World Shooting and Recreational Complex, which opened near Sparta in 2006, is a premier 1,600-acre facility catering to shooting enthusiasts of all ages.

Thousands of people from all over the world visit the complex for shooting competitions and for trapshooting, skeet and sporting clays. The Grand American World Trapshooting Championships are held there every year as well as other shooting events and special activities.

The complex also features a restaurant and several shops.

“Pyramid State Recreation Area and the World Shooting and Recreational Complex are not just important recreation facilities in Southern Illinois, they are key components of their host communities’ economic ecosystem,” Lindberg said. “Visitors to PSRA and WSRC spend money at local businesses for food, lodging, gas, supplies, and other activities. Each of these activities contributes to the economic prosperity and quality of life in Southern Illinois.”

The strategic planning engaged individuals and constituent groups, including the Friends of Pyramid State Park, who work to maintain and enhance the natural resources while maximizing the usage potential for recreational, educational, interpretive and artistic experiences.

Goals include funding, land and habitat management, promotion

Five strategic goals were the focus for Pyramid State Recreation Area:

  • Identify and secure sustainable funding sources.
  • Enhance natural resources compatible with recreational activities as defined by the grasslands management plan.
  • Maintain habitat for support of field trials.
  • Manage outdoor recreational activities.
  • Promote hunting opportunities and improve hunting quality.

The World Shooting and Recreational Complex task force set these strategic goals:

  • Adopt a business strategy for management and operations.
  • Create and diversify year-round, full-time shooting opportunities.
  • Develop non-shooting recreational activities.
  • Provide additional educational experiences.
  • Expand entertainment programs and events.

Engaging the public to solve immediate and long-term problems

One of the most pressing concerns at the park is the encroachment of invasive plant species, including autumn olive and shatter cane. The constituents and SIU representatives also discussed other threats to the park and its weaknesses, as well as its strengths and opportunities.

Field trial clubs, waterfowl groups, fishing clubs, Civil War reenactors and numerous others were consulted by the SIU team.

The task force included key stakeholders from the region and beyond. They established a vision statement, a mission statement and the strategic goals and then crafted a forward-looking strategic plan. They also reviewed the grassland management plan and addressed science-based, natural resource management considerations.

A public information session was held in June to solicit additional comments and information for the report, which will premiere at the Aug. 5 meeting.

Input about the shooting complex was solicited from diverse user groups, including the Amateur Trapshooting Association, ILLINOISSouth Tourism, the Illinois Federation for Outdoor Resources, the OKAW Valley Beagle Club and others.

Challenges and weaknesses of the facility were considered as were strengths and goals.

More about the event

Schimpf and officials from SIU will present the prepared reports to Callahan at the Aug. 5 event, which will take place at 1 Main Event Lane, Sparta. The World Shooting and Recreational Complex is about five miles north of Sparta on Illinois 4, then west on County Road 18; follow the signs to the complex.

Various other area dignitaries will also be on hand. Posters on site will highlight the work for the two task forces, and refreshments will be available for purchase.

The ongoing 120th Grand American World Trapshooting Championships, running July 31 to Aug. 10, will serve as a fitting backdrop for the event.