Thomas Robinson | December 8th, 2020
In an IowaWatch review, Iowa’s parks may be at risk of declining quality as the number of Iowa park rangers and funding decreases.
Iowa’s parks will likely see around 16 million visits in 2020, an above average number of visits for the state. The heightened number of visits comes as the number of park rangers has declined to 35 rangers from around 55 almost 20 years ago. The decline in park rangers presents a challenge to maintain the quality of the parks, and, while the review found most parks were doing well, there is potential for future damage.
Unfortunately, the reason for ranger decline is that general funding for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has been too low according to Sen. Ken Rozenboom. In 2018, the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission warned that if the general fund contribution was reduced further it may prevent the DNR from carrying out its mission. Amid budget challenges, the DNR closed their forestry bureau which ended checks for the Big Tree program that now only functions with the help of volunteers.
Coronavirus has emphasized the importance of Iowa’s state parks as places for people to explore and safely get out of their homes. For these parks to remain in good quality and accessible to those looking to be outside, future funding will be required to support the DNR and park rangers.