Thursday, March 4, 2010

Do you care about Idaho State Parks? If so, tell your legislators

Henry's Lake State Park

Farragut State Park, Lake Pend Oreille

City of Rocks National Reserve

Bruneau Dunes State Park

Some of you may remember when Gov. Otter unveiled his state budget in early January. He proposed to zero-fund the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation, sell off the IDPR headquarters by Shakespeare and the Boise River, and absorb the agency into the Idaho Department of Lands.

Quite a few people came unglued.

Because of the outcry, Gov. Otter has back-tracked on eliminating IDPR, and he wants to keep all 30 Idaho State Parks open. But he has proposed a draconian 80% budget cut for IDPR, which will put our State Parks in a precarious position from an operations and safety perspective.

For campers and visitors, the cuts will mean:

- Reduced visitor hours
- Some parks will be closed seasonally
- Bathrooms will get cleaned less often
- Skeleton staff levels for parks
- Park facilities falling into disrepair
- Potential safety issues

I've been involved in forming a new private nonprofit group called Friends of Idaho Parks & Recreation in hopes of building broader public support for IDPR, State Parks and the agency's recreation programs. People who love state parks and its recreation programs need to convince Gov. Otter and the Idaho Legislature that we don't want to ruin our state parks to balance the state budget.

Most agencies are looking at 15-20% cuts. For IDPR, it's 80%. Does that seem fair? Does that seem right?

If you're concerned, please write the budget committee members in the Idaho Legislature and let them know how you feel.

Here is a column I wrote recently urging people to take action on Facebook. Follow those links for emails of legislators and talking points. There is a fan page for Friends of Idaho State Parks. Please join.

The Legislature's budget committee will set IDPR's budget on Monday morning. Please write your email prior to 8 a.m. Monday.


- SS