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Expansion plans to include observation deck at Bald Knob Cross in southern Illinois


ALTO PASS, Illinois — Members of the board in charge of the Bald Knob Cross of Peace plan to expand the site and hire an executive director for the 11-story cross atop the tallest peak in southern Illinois.

The board made the announcement Thursday. They said they want to renovate the visitors' center and possibly build a conference and retreat area near the cross, located near Alto Pass. They also hope to build an observation deck on the south end of the visitors' center to provide a picturesque mountain view.

The board said it will hire an executive director as its first employee. Board secretary Steve McKeown said the position is designed "to throw a lot of human resource power behind the vision of the cross."

The executive director job will be a 20-hour-a-week position with a salary of $15,000 to $22,000. The board hopes to begin looking at a list of candidates at its annual meeting next month, if the position hasn't been filled by then.

"The main thing is we need an executive director who's going to have his heart and his head here and can focus on it," said Ralph Brandon, board chairman. "It has outgrown the volunteer where the president of the board did everything."

The cross is about 130 miles southeast of St. Louis near the Shawnee National Forest. It has been a fixture on the 1,025-foot-high Bald Knob Mountain. It was built largely with local farmers' profits from selling pigs.

"The past several years have been focused on cleaning up, restoring, repairing the cross or the grounds," said board treasurer Frank Caruso. "That has virtually been completed. And so now there can be more vision."

This summer, the board purchased about 12 acres of adjacent land for $78,000.

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