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Iowa parks impacted by budget crunch

By Staff | Apr 23, 2011

If you’re driving through Fort Defiance State Park or any other Iowa state park this summer and the grass looks a little long in places, there’s a very good reason.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is backing off from mowing state parks except for in strategic areas – at Fort Defiance that means the lodge and campground.

Any additional mowing or other maintenance would have to be done through volunteer groups – such as the Friends of Fort Defiance – whose members at their monthly meeting this past Tuesday night at the Estherville Public Library volunteered to do mowing in key visitation areas.

At the Friends of Iowa State Parks Summit April 9 in Des Moines, DNR staff, meeting with friends groups from throughout the state, reviewed the history of Iowas state parks and the impact of the current budget crunch and how the DNR hopes to handle short finances without closing any state parks as has been the case in Arizona and other states.

The discussion was monitored by Kevin Szcodronski, IDNR parks bureau chief, and Kent Sovern, executive director of the Iowa Parks Foundation.

Iowa actually ranks 49th overall in the U.S. in public lands, with 818,369 acres or 2.2 percent of overall land in Iowa.

Iowa’s first state park was dedicated in 1920, just a few years before Fort Defiance State Park was dedicated in 1930.

Sovern said the Next Century Parks Plan calls for market research, a park design guide, regional plans and local park plans. In addition, a $30 million Founder’s Campaign will be geared toward protecting visitors and natural resources, facilities, trails, education and interpretation and recreation revival.