(The Center Square) – Tourism in southern Illinois could get a boost if a proposal to make Prairie du Rocher and its environs a national historic park finds success.
U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, introduced a bill in the U.S. House to create a national historic park there, recognizing its French colonial architecture and history. With the support of fellow legislators, the site that includes Fort de Chartres, a national landmark, is expected to draw tourists.
Bost is optimistic that the park will become a reality.
“We’re hoping to get it through the House as soon as possible,” he said. “Then if the Senate also gives its support, the site could open as a national historic site as early as next year. In the meantime, the structures are ready to invite visitors and a two-day festival called Rendezvous is held each June, so residents don’t have to wait to lend their support.”
For Bost, his memories of the site go back to his days as an Explorer Scout. So, he naturally got onboard when locals approached him about national status. With so much history and architecture that’s stood the test of time, Bost said the proposal has real promise and “it’s really worth preserving.”
Additionally, archeology may be indirectly supporting the proposal to turn Prairie du Rocher and the surrounding area into a national historic park.
During an interview with The Center Square, Bost talked about an archeological dig that is unearthing the original Fort de Chartres. The well-known fort that exists today is a recreation of the original built in 1720.
“It’s in the middle of an archeological dig right now,” Bost said.
The advantages of national designation are many, such as inclusion on a national registry of such sites that gets worldwide exposure. At the same time, Bost does not foresee any prohibitive cost since the area already boasts well-preserved examples of French Colonial architecture.
In fact, Bost told The Center Square, “the cost would be minimal.”