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Barricades are seen in December 2016 behind the entrance sign for Rend Lake Resort. The state closed the resort that month and was seeking bids from vendors who could reopen the tourist destination. More than a year later, the boatel at the resort was demolished and several buildings were repaired as IDNR again seeks a vendor to run the resort.

WHITTINGTON — The Illinois Department of Natural Resources announced Wednesday plans to get Rend Lake Resort up and running again.

Brent Krebs, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources chief of staff, announced Wednesday that IDNR has issued a Request for Proposals for a new operator for Rend Lake Resort and Conference Center during a news conference at the resort. He said the facility could reopen by fall.

IDNR closed the facility and terminated its lease with Rend Lake Resort Inc. in December 2016. The reasons cited for the closure included mold, peeling paint and other health-related issues. It also noted that the vendor was delinquent in rent and related lease payments totaling more than $205,000 and owed back taxes and utility payments.

Krebs was joined by State Sen. Dale Fowler, R-Harrisburg; State Reps. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, and John Cavaletto, R-Salem; as well as Mark Roderick, assistant operations manager of Army Corps of Engineers at Rend Lake.

Fowler said they have been working on this for many months. He hopes the resort will be “bigger and better than it ever was” and will help promote Southern Illinois as a vacation spot for the entire Midwest.

“I can’t wait until it is opened,” Fowler said.

Bryant said the lake ties Franklin and Jefferson counties together and draws visitors from all over the country.

“This is going to be a really important part of bringing those [tourism] dollars in,” Bryant said.

Roderick said the lake gets 3.6 million visitors annually and generates $82 million dollars for the local economy, which is within 30 miles of Rend Lake. He said visitors come from all over the U.S., as well as from Great Britain, Australia, South Africa and other countries.

“We’re not just a U.S. destination, but an international destination,” Roderick said.

Cavaletto, a former Sesser resident, remembers watching construction of Rend Lake and called the lake one of three jewels in the state, along with Carlyle Lake and Lake Shelbyville.

“We want to see this be a jewel for Southern Illinois, and we’re going to make that happen,” Cavaletto said.

Krebs said IDNR expects “robust interest” in submitting proposals. Issues with the resort are expected to be resolved in the proposals, adding that whatever has to be done will be done. He also expects some oversight to be built into the new lease.

A mandatory vendor conference will be at 9 a.m. June 28 at the resort and will include a one- to two-hour meeting followed by a tour of the facilities, which could take four or more hours, according to the RFP listed on Illinois Procurement Bulletin website. Krebs said vendors must attend the conference to be eligible to submit a proposal. Bids are due Aug. 2.

“The sky’s the limit, and we expect to be able to knock it out of the park,” Krebs said.

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Reporter

Marilyn Halstead is a reporter covering Williamson County.

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