WESLEY TOWNSHIP (ECWd) -
"I know the park is supposed to be free and for everyone,
but our thoughts were by charging [a] small amount and no sign on [highway] 102 we could try and
keep this park from being overrun by blacks and Mexicans because the Wilmington islands are...
we wanted it for us...the township"
Nothing like telling everyone how you feel in print form...
For the more than a year, there has been an ongoing dispute between several residents of Wesley Township, the Township Board, and a further dispute between different interpretations of the Township Code.
Within the past month, people who use the park for camping have refused to pay for camping - citing the Township Code, Section 120-5, Township Parks, which states:
(60 ILCS 1/120-5)
Sec. 120-5. Power to acquire parkland; inapplicable to church.
(a) A township, acting through the township board, may acquire lands ... to be set apart and forever held and maintained and improved as public parks for the free use of the public.
Wesley Township officials are claiming a different section (85-10(j)) of the Township Code permits them to charge for camping, and they have a written opinion from their attorney - but only for "programs sponsored" by the township and programs that the township conducts. We believe the opinion is wrong on this and other points it makes as the quoted section applies and permits charging only for "programs" sponsored by the township, and not to the unsponsored general activities of the public (like camping and cookouts).
Since people have refused to pay the camping fee, Township officials has taken the following actions (without holding a meeting to take the actions):
- posting "no camping" signs
- removing a porta-potty
- stealing firewood
- entering tents without permission or warrant
- shutting off access to water
- shutting off electricity
- calling police and making frivolous complaints in an attempt at harassing and intimidating the campers
- suggesting that [other] people are harassing the campers at the park and causing trouble (we have reports of township trustees doing the harassing)
- placing (or permitting by not removing) trail cameras to be installed to spy on park users
We have recently wondered why the township would shut down all camping at the park instead of simply following the law and quit demanding payment of fees. It appears this board would rather take the unnecessary action of closing the park for camping.
I think we found the answer in an unsolicited message from a former township trustee, who was in office when the fees were discussed, and the determination made to charge for camping and use of the boat launch.
This cannot be tolerated in any form.
A follow-up to this article is HERE.