DNR: Communities Need to Take Ownership
Communities must do what they can to help maintain state parks, the director of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) said Monday in a talk to the Mason City Noon Rotary Club.
Director Chuck Gipp hit on a wide range of topics — all under the large umbrella of the DNR, the Mason City Globe Gazette reported.
He said people who use state parks have changed over the years.
“It used to be a guy with a tent,” he said. “Now there are campers with satellite dishes.”
Where at one time the state park was a refuge for people to get away from urban life, now everyone needs electrical outlets, he said.
All of this is happening at a time when funding for parks is going down.
“User fees are not the answer,” he said. “There are 82 state parks and all of them have multiple entrances. It would be expensive to staff and almost impossible to enforce.
“Communities need to take ownership — not physical ownership but emotional ownership of their parks,” he said.
He said the DNR is a diverse agency that runs parks, wildlife area and prairies as one part of its responsibilities and also regulates air and water pollution levels, landfills, wildlife management and hunting and fishing programs.
He touched on two environmental programs in which the DNR is actively involved — disadvantaged communities and the nutrient reduction strategy.
Disadvantaged communities are ones that are so small they cannot afford to put in wastewater treatment facilities.
Gipp said the DNR finds itself in between “those who say you can’t force a community to do something it can’t afford — and the EPA who says ‘you must.’
“My view is to make sure communities know they must have good water quality and find ways to help them without bankrupting them,” he said.
The nutrient reduction strategy is a science and technology-based approach to assessing and reducing nutrients delivered into Iowa waterways.
The goal is to reduce phosphorus content by 16% and nitrogen content by 4%. It is part of a 12-state program along the Mississippi River.
“In the past, there’s been an attitude of ‘it’s everybody’s problem except mine.’ It was like a circular firing squad. Now it’s everyone working together,” said Gipp.
He laughed and said he wanted to squelch some rumors he’s been hearing.
“The DNR does not have a cougar stocking program nor are we stocking rattlesnakes, black bears or mountain lions. We’re having enough trouble stocking pheasants.”