ILLINOIS CITY — Improvements continue at Loud Thunder Forest Preserve, with concrete pads recently poured for 35 new pull-through RV camping sites and installation of a new playground at the Deer Haven campsite.
Hookups for water, sewer and 50 amp electricity will be installed as part of the upgrades, which can accommodate larger RV campers. A new well and sanitary system have already been built, which took away some of the space needed for the original plan of 53 pull-through sites.
"In addition to that, there will be 16 back-in full-service sites in a new area west of the horse corral," said Jeff Craver, Forest Preserve District director. "Those will be designated as horse camping areas or overflow camping."
Craver said it's been more than 25 years since a new campground has been built at Loud Thunder, 19406 Loud Thunder Road, Illinois City. Eight primitive campsites will also receive water and electric hookups.
"We see most of our activity on the weekends," Craver said. "Our occupancy (rate) for the year has been around 80 percent. The past four weekends we've been at capacity. We're hoping to see that trend continue with the additional RV sites. By upgrading our amenities and services, we hope to attract more customers and keep the existing customers a little bit more comfortable.
Repairs to the dam and spillway on Lake George, the 167-acre man-made lake located in the preserve were completed in May and a wave protection wall was completed in August, Craver said.
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Proceeds from a family trust set up more than 30 years ago by Marvin and Leona Martin also contributes to funding for Loud Thunder, long after the 20-year life span of the trust. When the trust expired in 2013, it was converted into the Loud Thunder Forest Preserve Endowment.
Craver, who has been the director since 2006, told the Dispatch-Argus in 2017 that the endowment generates about $60,000 annually which is used for improvements at Loud Thunder.
Also in the works are plans for two cabins to be constructed overlooking Lake George, with a walking path down to the lake. Original plans called for four cabins and four individual walking paths with individual docks.
"Most likely it will be two cabins instead of four due to funding for the project," Craver said. "We'll put that RFP (request for proposal) out hopefully by the end of October and present a recommendation to the (county) board sometime in November."
Craver said an additional trail will be installed from the Deer Haven campground to Lake George, with another dock.
"Our budget was very, very tight to begin with," he said. "There was a discussion on whether it was going to be enough to do everything we needed. Our first priority was to remedy all of the deficiencies from the spillway. Secondly, improve all of the campgrounds within the park; and three, modernize the campgrounds and bring our amenities up to service.
"We will review the possibility for future growth and more cabins in the future," Craver said.