DES MOINES -- Stone State Park will get its own full-time park ranger, under the reorganization plan for the state parks unveiled to Iowa lawmakers Tuesday.
Dr. Al Farris, interim parks division administrator, told the Iowa House Natural Resources Committee Tuesday that the state's current four districts will be expanded to six and that each major park will have its own park manager and a ranger. Some properties may share one or the other but most will have their own.
"But how many areas are affected is going to depend on how much money is in the budget," Farris told lawmakers. "You can't do the same job you were doing two years ago with $750,000 less."
Under the plan, each district will have a supervisor who will oversee the parks within the area. It also calls for the elimination of the park superintendent position, reducing the management and supervisory staff within the division. That will allow them to increase the number of park rangers and park managers. It will move the division from a 4-to-1 supervisory ratio to a 12.9-to-1 ratio, which will put more staff in the field, a move similar to other reorganization plans by state government, Farris said.
Reducing supervisors and putting rangers and park managers in each park will reduce the travel between parks. Park managers will be responsible for physical facilities; rangers will be responsible for law enforcement within the parks and for maintaining public safety.
"It's good news for Stone Park," said Rep. Steve Warnstadt, D-Sioux City, who has been one of the area lawmakers talking with the DNR about the need for a full-time ranger at Stone State Park.
The driving cause of the reorganization is the state's budget cuts. Last year, lawmakers appropriated $500,000 less for the Department of Natural Resources; the 4.3 percent budget cut put into effect Nov. 1 cut the DNR by another $250,000.
That's cut part-time jobs within the DNR as well, Farris said. He said he was committed to reducing part-time hours completely before reducing any full-time positions. Part-time help in the parks, which is used to maintain them, cost $1.4 million last year; during the current fiscal year, the DNR will spend $1 million.
The DNR has already announced the new openings for district managers and will be interviewing candidates for the two new spots Tuesday. They're not yet certain exactly how to phase out the park superintendents, many of whom will return to ranger or manager positions.
"There will be some loss of salary for those folks," Farris said.
Kevin Pape of Sioux City is a park superintendent. The Sioux City Journal was unable to reach him Tuesday for comment.
Farris said keeping the superintendent positions would run counter to the objectives of reducing supervisory personnel.
"My objective is to accomplish this with the least pain possible," he said.
The park manager will live in the park for which he or she is responsible. In cases where there is a ranger currently living in the property, he or she will be asked to find alternative housing or will be paying a "reasonable rent," Farris said. Managers do not pay rent because they are required to live in the houses.
A few lawmakers on the committee suggested that parks which generate revenue should be allowed to use that revenue on the property. But Farris pointed out that would create a situation where one park might have 12 staff members and modern equipment while another park would have no staff and no equipment.