“We will have the same parks and we will be open. Our service levels may drop a bit,” state Parks Director Nancy Merrill said. The plan just announced by Merrill and Gov. Butch Otter calls for taking $2 million from RV registration funds, $1.4 million from cash balances at the department, and $1.1 million from personnel by cutting 25 positions. “This will be very tough, it will be hard for us to do it,” Merrill said, but she said it will be “a paradigm shift for us. We will be looking at revenues and our costs, and we will be … balancing those as a business would.” The department will stay in its current headquarters building, Merrill said, but will look at possibly selling off some of the surrounding 15 acres. “Our visitorship this year is up 16 percent,” she said. She expressed optimism that increased park use will continue to bring more money into the system, so existing RV programs wouldn’t be hurt by the fund shift.
Fees will remain affordable, Merrill said, though there may be increases. A carload of people likely still will be able to access Idaho state parks from sunrise to sunset for $5. She said the department will make more use of volunteers and seasonal workers. “We have an incredible resource of volunteers that we have not fully used,” she said. “We will use those folks.”