PRAIRIE DU ROCHER, IL (KMOX)-After struggling for years to find a way to stave off levee decertification, and survive to see its 300th birthday, the historic Randolph County village of Prairie Du Rocher is being tossed a lifeline.
Thanks to the donations of three historic properties and support from Congressman Mike Bost, the Interior Department is now studying whether to approve the proposal to make its French Historical District a national park. Chamber of Commerce President Amy Barbeau tells KMOX that as a national park, the village would receive funding it would otherwise have no way of raising. "Moneys that could possibly improve infrastructure, to keep the highways and the roadways to and from those sites up and going," says says. "Also, in theory, hopefully to protect the properties in their natural locations, so that could be a potential source of funding for our levee repair and maintenance."
The village of roughly 600 residents, which was founded in 1722, faces an uncertain future after the Federal Emergency Management Agency began the process of decertifying the levees protecting it from the Mississippi River. The required improvements would cost tens of millions of dollars. Decertification would lead to skyrocketing flood insurance rates that would likely force homeowners and businesses to leave and prevent any future development.
The Interior Department's study should be completed by Spring. Barbeau says the village needs people to write and email in support of the proposal. You can send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org. Send letters to the Village Hall at 209 Henry St. Prairie Du Rocher, Il, 62277.
Barbeau is hoping the declaration will be made before the village celebrates it's tri-centennial in 2020. "That would be the best birthday present of all," she says."That 300th year to actually be able to give this community national park status."