Budget cuts could force Iowa DNR to close some state parks

By  | 

DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- Some state parks in Iowa might have to close. That's because they’re getting less money from the state.

The budget the legislature and Governor Branstad approved for the Department of Natural Resources is less than half what it was 10 years ago.

Right now, Iowa has 22 state parks, and there's only one full-time person in charge of each park. If one of those people should retire, it could jeopardize the future of the entire park.

The DNR has also had to reduce the number of summer workers in the parks by 25 percent.

The Mines of Spain State Park in Dubuque is rich with natural and historic treasures. On a warm Wednesday, the state park served as a classroom for 3rd grade students from Holy Family Catholic Schools.

"I like the trees and stuff and all the grass and flowers," said student Lucy Murphy.

But keeping up with those flowers and grasses and paying park rangers is costly.

The DNR is now figuring out ways to do it all with $1.5 million fewer state dollars.

"I don't know ultimately that we did the right thing in the legislature, based on full knowledge of the impact of what we are doing," said Democratic Representative Chuck Isenhart of Dubuque.

Isenhart voted against cutting D.N.R. funding.

"I think treasures are something we don't recognize until they're gone," said Isenhart.

Iowa DNR Director Chuck Gipp, tells TV9 as soon as the Iowa legislative session ended he issued a hiring freeze. He says that means if a park ranger or conservation officer resigns or retires from a state park that has just one full time employee, that park will have to close.

"The new policy unfairly puts the monkey on the back of public employees. It puts them in a position of ‘Hey, if I resign or retire, I am doing a disservice to this park that I've committed my life to,’" said Isenhart.

The DNR says right now they have not made any decisions about parks closing.