Thanks to Volunteers, Idaho State Parks Remain Open


Volunteers played a large part in keeping Idaho's state parks open, thanks to their more than 85,000 hours of free work this past year.

Idaho's department of Parks and Recreation receives only $1.3 million a year in state funding, down from the $9.6 million we saw in 2003.

"We are very proud to say we've been able to keep all 30 of our state parks open," the state Park's Director Nancy Merrill said during her annual budget pitch. She credited Idaho's great volunteers for making this a reality.

In the midst of all the free labor given by volunteers to keep Idaho's parks running, overnight occupancy has increased by 2.69 percent while revenue from all other sources went up by 7.45 percent. Idaho's total budget for state parks this year is $32.4 million, with the vast majority coming from dedicated funds which include camping and entry fees and RV registration. $5 million comes from federal funds.

The parks department is requesting $2.8 million in state funding for next year while Governor Butch Otter is recommending just $1.35 million. The difference is made up of $1.4 million in replacement items that Otter didn't recommend funding for.

Whatever Idaho's budget ends up being, there's no doubt that the agency's efforts coupled with the help of state volunteers will continue to keep Idaho's beautiful parks open for everyone to enjoy.

Meanwhile, the Park's new program to sell "passports" has gotten off to a quiet, though strong start. The Idaho State Parks passport costs $10 and is available for purchase at the time car registration is due, and is valid for either one or two years and expires concurrently with vehicle registration. The passport gives admittance to all 30 of Idaho's state parks and of course to the hundred of miles of hiking, cycling, mountain biking and nordic trails these parks have to offer. Nightly discounts on camping is also included as well as access to boat launches and historical sites within the parks.

The passport program is designed to help pay for maintenance and management of Idaho's 30 state parks and the Parks Department is counting on the passports as a keystone feature in future funding.

"Without much advertising we began selling those passports in October. We have sold $232,000 the first three months without advertising," Merrill said.

Idaho's state parks provide residents and out-of-state visitors with beautiful opportunities to enjoy the spectacular scenery and recreation the state offers, including biking, boating, camping, climbing, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, snowmobiling and much more.

Eagle Island, Lucky Peak, Lake Cascade and Bruneau Dunes are a few of the state parks near Boise, Idaho where you can take advantage of some of these wonderful outdoor opportunities close to home.

Source: SpokesmanReview, Idaho Credits Volunteers for Keeping State Parks Open

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