Iowa State Parks Brace for 10% Budget Cuts
Iowa’s natural resources have not been spared in the state’s 10% across-the-board budget clear-cutting, and northwest Iowa environmental leaders wonder how deep the roots of economic damage may run.
One of the largest expenditure cuts from the DNR falls in the state parks funding, according to The Daily Reporter, Spencer, Iowa.
Department of Natural Resources officials will be slicing $686,000 from their parks department. A preliminary department reduction plan includes a severe reduction in park staffing, a reduction or inability to provide resource management on prairies and woodlands and for invasive species control efforts, closing portions of parks that are not income-producing and reduction of park brochures and public programs
Historically the DNR has needed 300 seasonal employees, many of them college students, to properly help keep up and maintain parks across the state. This fiscal year the number of employees was reduced to 150 and with the most recent cuts the department is anticipating they’ll only have 32 seasonal employees to work with statewide in 2010.
“We’re still working through a plan,” says DNR spokesperson Kevin Baskins. “It could result in us closing portions of the parks that are not high income-producing or high maintenance with low public use including certain roads, parking lots and trails.” Baskins says although they have not closed any parks, they have had to reduce maintenance to portions of the parks such as less frequent mowing and less frequent cleanup of facilities. In some cases where the mowing was reduced wildlife habitats have developed. “We have concentrated our maintenance efforts on campgrounds and other facilities such as lodges and cabins that produce revenue,” he says.
During the budget constraints Baskins says he wants Iowans to understand there will be evident reductions in care to some beloved sites. “The state parks belong to all of us and all of us have the responsibility to be good stewards. We ask visitors to go the extra mile in helping keep our parks clean by picking up trash around campsites and picnic areas and encourage the use of recycling whenever possible,” he says.
Despite reduction of maintenance efforts, Baskins says the DNR has a talented and dedicated staff that is committed to conservation of Iowa’s natural resources. “During these difficult economic times, we know it is more important than ever to provide quality recreational opportunities close to home,” he says.
This past year, Baskins says they’ve noticed a higher number of campers and increased sales of fishing licenses as people choose less expensive recreational options within northwest Iowa.
According to the department plan for spending reduction, it was noted that the 85 DNR managed parks would defer all maintenance except critical repairs.