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Shuttered For More Than Five Years, Chippewa Campground At Kankakee River State Park Could Soon See Repairs

CHICAGO (CBS) -- After years of delays, it appears work will soon get underway to fix up a long-shuttered campground in Kankakee River State Park, and state officials say the repairs could finally be completed by November.

We weren't wearing masks the last time we saw Ken Plecki's camper, and Zoom wasn't really a thing.

What's the same as last time, two full years after our first interview: Chippewa campground, the outdoor lover's favorite spot to camp at Kankakee River State Park, is still closed for repairs.

"You would expect to see some equipment," said Plecki, who stopped by Chippewa campground on a recent trip to the park's other campsite, named Potawatomi.

His recent Chippewa pictures mirror our video from April 2019: uncut grass and debris lying on the path.

"What I was looking for was evidence that there was some progress being made on the major construction projects that they had been talking about for the last five years, and there was none," said Plecki.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) closed Chippewa in late 2015, due to water supply issues.

Not a camper? Maybe you'll care that the state is starting a sixth season without campsite rental revenue at that location. When both Chippewa and Potawatomi were both closed – in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 – a CBS 2 records request showed Illinois was losing out on more than $100,000 generated from those campsite rentals.

Potawatomi reopened for camping late last year.

As of 2019, Chippewa's work needed approval from the state, and then it was supposed to go out to bid.

IDNR provided an update to CBS 2 on behalf of the Capital Development Board (CDB), which oversees the design and construction of state-funded facilities.

CDB confirmed the new water system's design was approved, and a general contracting firm has been selected.

"The status is 0% complete and is pending Authorization to Proceed (ATP)," an email from IDNR on behalf of CDB read in part. It went on to explain notice of the awarded contract was only given on May 7, 2021, and that the bidding process was delayed because of COVID-19 and limited resources.

Then came some good dates: possible working water by August 2021, with work "substantially complete by November 2021."

"That's a lot of news. That's a lot to absorb," said Plecki after CBS 2 read him the state's update. "Having a timeline, that's that's that's great!!!"

Not as great as a night under the stars at Chippewa, of course.

Plecki will be counting the days, and we'll be watching the progress.

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