DNR may have no option left but to close some state parks

“After a decade of declining state taxpayer support, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources may be forced to close some state parks.

“We have no choice,” Chuck Gipp, the agency’s director, said during an interview with Radio Iowa. “You’ve got to have people.”

Gipp said there’s just one full-time person manning 22 of the state’s parks. If any of those 22 people retire in the next 12 months, Gipp hopes to be able to transfer someone in from another park. However, that may not be possible and some parks may be closed.

“We will continue, as we always do in the department, to do the best job we can with the resources that are available,” Gipp said. “We just want to let people know that we can’t continue to face the reductions we have over the last few years and still provide those opportunities.”

Gipp has had to reduce the number of “seasonal” staff who work in the parks during the summer by 25 percent, plus there’s been a hiring freeze in place for full-time staff in his agency.

“Parks don’t run themself,” Gipp told Radio Iowa. “When people come to a park, they want to experience mown grass. They want to have a clean restroom and things like that.”

Parks with tent sites, R-V hook-ups and cabins are generating some revenue from camping fees, so Gipp said none of those parks would be closed. There are other parks open just during daylight hours and those are most likely to be closed. The general budget plan Governor Branstad and legislators just approved for the Department of Natural Resources is less than half what it was 10 years ago.

Gipp said his agency will fulfill its regulatory obligations and will “do what it can” to keep operating as many parks and recreation areas as possible.”

DNR may have no option left but to close some state parks