Officials with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources are busy placing 160 new workers around the state. The workers are part of 378 AmeriCorps members assigned to Iowa through a federally-funded expansion of the AmeriCorps program. Most of the workers placed with the D.N.R. will help maintain the state parks. Kevin Szcodronski is the state parks bureau chief.
He says the workers will help fill the void left by budget cuts, which forced a reduction in summertime staffing. Szcodronski estimates that each of the roughly 50 state parks in Iowa will receive two AmeriCorps workers. "That’s going to equate to about 50,000 hours of work and we’re cut back this year, compared to last year, between 60-to-70,000 hours," Szcodronski said.
A few weeks ago, Szcodronski issued an advisory – warning Iowans that state budget cuts would likely result in less upkeep at state parks this summer. He says the AmeriCorps workers will help that situation. "It’s not going to be the total answer," Szcodronski said of the added help.
"Park visitors are still going to see taller grass and so on…but it will be a lot better than what we thought it was going to be two or three weeks ago before we got word that we got approved for these AmeriCorps workers."
Full-time AmeriCorps members are paid around $7.00 and receive an award of $4,725 that can be used for college tuition or loan repayment after completing a full year of service.