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Otter and Merrill offer specifics on parks

Otter and Merrill offer specifics on parks

Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
January 22, 2010

The Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation will not be eliminated, but will see funding reductions and layoffs, according to Gov. Butch Otter. He and parks director Nancy Merrill presented some changes Friday to Otter's original plan to merge parks with the Department of Lands and Department of Fish and Game.

Under the plan, no state parks would close, but the parks department would lose $4.5 million from general fund dollars in the next state budget. That reduction would be offset in several ways:

- Merrill said some parks would see a $1 fee increase.
- Twenty-five parks employees, located mostly in Boise, would lose their jobs.  Those layoffs would save $1.1 million.
- The department would also use $2 million from the RV Registration Fund to pay for expenses related the RV program that are currently paid with general fund dollars.
- The department would also use about $1.4 million in available cash balances.
All these changes would need to be approved by lawmakers and likely would not go into effect until July.

IdahoReporter recorded a news conference featuring Otter and Merrill Friday morning that lasted under half an hour. Here is video of the news conference in five parts:

Part one, containing most of Otter and Merrill's prepared remarks.

Part two features the end of Merrill's remarks and the start of Q&A with reporters.

Part three features more Q&A.

Part four features more Q&A.

Part five features the final questions and end of the news conference.

Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, said she was relieved to hear during the news conference that the governor isn't planning to close any state parks.  Jaquet has been working to make sure that Thousand Springs State Park in the Magic Valley doesn't close.

Otter also said during the news conference that he won't try to sell the parks and recreation headquarters building in Boise, but would look to sell part of the 15 acres of land surrounding the building. His plan to balance the next state budget depended on selling the building for $5 million. Otter's budget chief Wayne Hammon said the land alone won't make $5 million, and that state rainy day funds will be tapped to make up the difference.

Read Gov. Otter's news release on the changes.

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