A new private non-profit group called "Friends of Idaho Parks & Recreation" has formed to fight budget cuts to parks, work to increase volunteerism in state parks and generate long-term funding. The group's formation was announced at today's Parks Board meeting, at which the board discussed a plan to keep all 30 state parks open, but with reduced services due to deep budget cuts. Click below to read the full announcement from the new group.
Friends of Idaho Parks & Recreation
Feb. 25, 2010
NEWS RELEASE - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Steve Stuebner
Friends of Idaho Parks & Recreation group
forms to push for higher funding for IDPR
BOISE - A new private nonprofit group called Friends of Idaho Parks & Recreation was formed Thursday to work on political support for the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation, boost volunteerism at state parks and generate long-term funding for parks and recreation projects.
Steve Stuebner, a spokesman for the new group, made an announcement about the formation of Friends of Idaho Parks & Recreation at the Idaho Parks and Recreation Board meeting on Thursday morning.
"It's been difficult to watch as the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation has become a primary target for budget cuts in these difficult economic times," said Stuebner, an Idaho outdoor author and avid recreationist. "IDPR is facing an 80% budget cut in fiscal 2011. Compared to most state agencies, that is a huge reduction, and it's not fair. The deep cuts will affect park operations, visitor experiences and ultimately Idaho's economy."
On Thursday, the Parks Board discussed a new plan to keep all 30 state parks open, albeit with a skeleton staff, and some seasonal closures. IDPR Director Nancy Merrill said service levels will decrease because of budget cuts, rest rooms won't be cleaned as often, and there will be fewer staff available to address security and safety issues and assist park visitors. All told, a reduction in 25 full-time positions and 75 seasonal positions will result in a reduction of 130,000 hours of staff service, IDPR staff said.
Although the Parks Board voted to approve staff recommendations on park operations for fiscal 2011, Parks Board Chairman Steve Klatt said, "We're setting the stage where we're like a ball team going into the season without anyone on the bench. You can't reduce staff levels like this without having impacts."
Friends of Idaho Parks & Recreation will encourage Idaho lawmakers to adopt a higher general fund budget in the $3 million range, instead of $1.6 million, to provide for better staffing levels and services.
"Ultimately, it's a political decision how Idaho lawmakers and Gov. Otter split up the budget pie," Stuebner said. "Literally thousands of Idahoans are quite upset about these attacks on IDPR. We have to remember that Idaho's 30 state parks bring in $40 million in tourism revenue, providing critical funds to many rural areas throughout the state."
Friends of Idaho Parks & Recreation (FIPR) is working on building a statewide coalition of groups who support Idaho State Parks and its recreation programs. Groups that have already signed on include the Friends of Harriman State Park, the Idaho Good Sam Club, and the Idaho Recreation Coalition, which includes the Idaho State Snowmobile Association, the Idaho ATV Association, and the Idaho Trail Machine Association.
FIPR will work to align with chambers of commerce, the Idaho Travel Council, regional travel councils, the Idaho Lodging & Restaurant Assoc., Idaho Innkeepers and more.
A Facebook fan page called Friends of Idaho State Parks already has more than 1,400 members, and it's growing every day.