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Posts tagged: Nancy Merrill

Otter: Merrill’s management at Parks will be ‘sorely missed’

Gov. Butch Otter issued this statement on the impending retirement of state Parks Director Nancy Merrill:

“Besides being a great friend, Nancy has been a skilled and energetic director at Parks and Recreation. She brought enthusiasm, experience and a hard-nosed business approach to managing the agency that was badly needed and will be sorely missed.”

Merrill, 66, said she’s proud of her record at the department, and with her husband retiring in May, it seemed like the right time. “We’ve accomplished a lot, and I feel good about it,” she said. “We had some tough years.” She said of Idaho's state parks, “We have learned to kind of stand on our own, and that includes looking at our fees and the way that we do business, and that includes bringing in additional revenues to help sustain ourselves.” That focus will need to continue in the future, she said, including tapping corporate sponsorships and other sources of funding to help the park system stay solid. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

State parks chief Nancy Merrill to retire, national search launched for replacement

Nancy Merrill, director of Idaho’s Department of Parks and Recreation, will retire in mid-July, and the state is launching a national search for her replacement. “We’re reaching out to every resource available,” said parks spokeswoman Jennifer Okerlund. Merrill has been the head of Idaho’s state park system since 2009.

State funding for parks in Idaho has dropped from $17.7 million in general funds in 2008 – the year before Merrill took over – to just $1.3 million this year, forcing the parks to tap other revenue sources, from RV licensing funds to new ventures including low-priced season park passports, selling firewood, renting paddleboards, canoes and sand-boards, marketing parks as venues for weddings and special events, adding partnerships and concessions, and adding camper cabins and other revenue-generating improvements.

“We’ve worked hard over the past few years to reinvent ourselves and change the way we do business to keep each of these special places open,” Merrill told the Legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee in January. “Our greatest need is to keep and take care of what we now have. We have done so much with so little.” Lawmakers this year approved a $3.5 million budget for parks next year – a 160 percent increase – but that’s largely due to a one-time allocation for $1.6 million in specific replacement items and repairs at state parks. The total cost of running Idaho’s parks is more than $33 million; Gov. Butch Otter has led a move to wean the parks system from state general funds.

Merrill launched the sales of $10 season passes to all Idaho’s parks with state vehicle registrations, bringing in more than $1 million for parks in the first year of sales and also bringing more visibility and visitors. But at the same time, costs for basics like personnel, utilities and fuel at the parks rose enough to swallow up the extra money.

In a 2013 interview with “Outdoor Idaho” host Bruce Reichert, Merrill reflected on the future of Idaho's state parks, saying she hopes the state will have the foresight to acquire more park land for future generations; you can see that interview here.

Merrill is the former mayor of Eagle and the former president of the Association of Idaho Cities. She and her husband Galan have four children and 15 grandchildren. Jon Hanian, spokesman for Gov. Otter, said, “Nancy’s been one of our stars.”

Idaho state parks start selling $10 annual pass, 3 months earlier than planned

Idaho's new $10 annual “Passport” to all 30 of its state parks and recreation areas will go on sale Monday, three months earlier than planned. The new Passport replaces the current $40 annual pass, and will be available at all Idaho county Department of Motor Vehicle offices, where, if they choose, Idahoans can add on the $10 pass when they register their vehicles each year.

“It's a bargain any way you look at it,” said state Parks Director Nancy Merrill, who initiated the program as part of a big push to make Idaho's parks system self-sustaining, as its annual state funding has dropped from $6.2 million to $1.3 million. Out-of-state residents still will pay $40 for the passes; a single entry fee at an Idaho state park is $5.

Though the new Passport costs a quarter as much as its predecessor, Merrill expects far more Idahoans to purchase the pass, thanks to its low price and the convenience of getting it along with vehicle registration. She studied programs in other states, and developed Idaho's as a “true choice plan - it's not an opt-out.” Idahoans only get the stickers if they choose to buy them. They also can be purchased at any time, not just when vehicle registration fees are due. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
  

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About this blog

Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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