Two young members of the “Green Ribbon Commission” are asking Iowa’s elected leader to dedicate more state tax dollars to state-owned parks. Henry Gunderson, a high school sophomore in Des Moines, is a youth member of the commission and he testified before the governor this week. “Make Iowa’s parks as incredible for future generations as they were for you and the generations before,” Gunderson says.

The state budget for the state park system has increased by $20-million over the past four years. “But that is only the first step,” Gunderson said. “We’d like to encourage all present to step across party lines and find common ground to enhance and distinguish Iowa’s park system in 2014 and beyond — not just for yourselves, but for your sons and daughters and their sons and daughters.”

Forrest LaPrade, a seventh grader in Des Moines, is another youth member of the Green Ribbon Commission. “Iowa led the nation in the 1920s in developing state parks. Iowa led the nation in the 1950s in developing a county park system,” LaPrade told the governor. “Now Iowans expect our entire park system to lead the nation again, serving the needs of and sportsmen in the 21st century, maximizing all available resources we have accumulated in the past 100 years.”

Iowa’s park system will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2020. Governor Terry Branstad appointed the Green Ribbon Commission and asked it to function like the “Blue Ribbon” Foundation which has raised millions in private donations to spruce up the state fairgrounds. The Green Ribbon Commission is devising a strategic plan for the 70 state-run parks and recreation areas, many of which need repairs to historic structures, updates in antiquated electrical systems and wifi installation.