To some of my friends, state parks just aren't that cool.
I suppose I was one of those who thought state parks were best suited for young families with kids... families who could benefit from the protection that a state park provides.
Give me the Sawtooths or the White Clouds or the Frank Church Wilderness any day. For me, that’s where adventure lies.
But I've learned a lot about state parks this past summer, and I appreciate them much more now. In fact, my colleagues who helped with “State of Our Parks” - John Crancer, Pat Metzler, Jay Krajic, Joan Cartan-Hansen – feel the same way.
State parks help tell the story of Idaho. They are the keepers of special places, the memory makers for families. State parks also benefit local communities, with a dedicated staff who understands what it means to serve.
I came away from this project thinking that the folks of northern Idaho really do love their state parks, and use them more than the rest of us. Of course, what's not to love about Priest Lake State Park, Farragut, Old Mission, Heyburn. In fact, Heyburn was the northwest’s first state park.
I re-visited Harriman State Park, in eastern Idaho, this summer and realized what a splendid gift it was from the Harriman family. It is so peaceful and pastoral. It was also the impetus for creating a professionally run state parks department in Idaho… the gift that keeps on giving.
And in southern Idaho, who doesn't enjoy Bruneau Dunes State Park in the spring? Well, maybe some of those runners who competed in the Bruneau Beast run! One of them told us the Bruneau Beast was even harder than the Race to Robie Creek.
“To improve the quality of life in Idaho through outdoor recreation and resource stewardship.” That's the mission of the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation. But we don't give them much money to meet that mission. In fact, we've cut their budget and asked them to raise most of the money themselves, this at a time when more and more folks are using state parks.
But they're a plucky lot, those park managers. They'll find a way to balance the checkbook and still make everyone feel welcome, just as they’ve done so many times before.
I certainly wish them well. They are the guardians of some of the best landscape Idaho has to offer.