Declining state revenues could limit Iowans’ access to areas of state parks next year. Iowa Department of Natural Resources spokesperson Kevin Baskins says just over half of the D.N.R.’s $15.4 million budget comes from the general fund. “If you look over the last two fiscal years, our appropriation has dropped about 26%. So, obviously, that’s starting to have an impact on some of things that we can do in state parks,” Baskins told Radio Iowa.
The D.N.R. doesn’t plan to close any of the 85 state parks, but could rope off areas of parks that aren’t used much by the public. “One of the biggest examples of that is around the Great Lakes. There’s a number of areas around the lake that we own, that (include) public access to the lake, but may not have the lodges or camping that are traditional to most of our state parks,” Baskins said.
“Those are areas that we’ll probably look at reducing maintenance on at this point.” Baskins says further budget cuts could eventually force the D.N.R. to completely close lesser-used parks. He says there are no plans in place to raise the fees that people pay to rent cabins, lodges or campground spaces.
“That is something that we have looked at,” Baskins admitted. “We’re a little bit reluctant to do it because that obviously impacts park visitors and the citizens of Iowa if we raise fees.” Iowa’s state parks draw around 14-million visitors per year. There are several initiatives in the works that could benefit the state parks.
Baskins says the D.N.R. has applied for $40 million in stimulus funding to pay for things like new cabins, playgrounds and beach buildings. In addition, a private foundation is hoping to raise cash for the parks.