In this, a year of severe downsizing in Idaho state government, it was gratifying to learn that at Farragut State Park, not all was gloom and doom.
First, the park lost one full-time position. Then, since Farragut is probably the most profitable park in the system, park manager Randall Butt was given a half-time position for Farragut and a half-time position for his other park, Coeur d’Alene Parkway, which is the 5-mile long strip along old Highway 10, east of Coeur d’Alene.
But that’s not all. The surprise of the season was the sudden promotion of Keith Jones, assistant park manager at Farragut.
Jones’ new position is that of natural resource program manager for the entire state park system. This department within a department was created just two years ago to address problems in the park system such as clean water, control of noxious nonnative weeds and resource problems with air, water, disease, pests and other control problems.
Jones has his work cut out for him. Reporting to his new headquarters, moved from Lewiston to Coeur d’Alene Oct. 18, he is ready to tackle this gargantuan undertaking. What makes the role even more difficult, is the 32 parks in the system reach from Priest Lake in the north to Bear Lake State Park in the extreme southeast of Idaho. From pine bark beetles to rattlesnakes, no two parks are the same nor have the same problems. The climates in many parts of Idaho differ extensively. Moose and elk, wolves and mountain goats in the north, with desert conditions in parts of the southeast andeverything in between.
Jones, married with children ages 7 and 9, has been with the park service for 13 years. He started at Round Lake State Park in North Idaho, turtle capital of the park system, as a seasonal employee, and was promoted in 2005 to assistant park manager at Farragut under Randall Butt.
“My job isn’t to direct so much as it is to educate and support the park staffs,” Jones said. Resource management is not limited to natural resources. This leadership post searches out grants and other pockets of funds that can benefit the various parks. In writing about Farragut State Park, one gets to know the principals involved. Farragut manager Randall Butt is a family man. Sure, he has his own family, but another is the park and his staff, of which he says, “It is a dual relationship. My staff and I truly like each other, and more importantly, are able to blur the lines between affection and professionalism.”
Some examples of that were when Errin Bair had to transfer to another park to hold her job. As soon as another opening occurred at Farragut, Butt was on the phone inviting her back. The same happened more recently with Megan Habel. When a half-time position opened up at Farragut with the other half at Coeur d’Alene Parkway State Park, Butt immediately called Habel to offer her the opportunity to return. Recently, resource management has included federally-funded Fire Smart prevention program. Brush and spindly trees are cleared leaving space between more mature trees and less fuel for a careless cigarette thrown to ignite.
Another is reintroducing blister rust-resistant white pine groves in the park, as well as knapweed control with both insect and herbicides as weapons.
Recently in Heyburn State Park, more than 100 goats were rented along with herd dogs to chomp on knapweed. Grazing leases are another way to control unwanted growth. According to Butt, “properly controlled grazing, if not overdone, can nip the tops of plants before they bloom and go to seed.