State parks face budget cuts | ParkRecord.com

State parks face budget cuts

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

The bad economy is forcing Utah State Parks officials to meet a 15 percent budget reduction.

The division will hire fewer seasonal workers as crowds flock to boating reservoirs this summer. Management of some state parks will be consolidated and some positions will be eliminated.

Longtime Rockport State Park Manager Steve Hewson retired this month after he was offered an incentive to step down.

"I knew there were going to be cuts We heard rumors that it was going to be 10 or 12 percent, or in that range, but we didn’t know," Hewson said. "I was ready to do something different."

Operating hours at several museums run by the division will be slashed to meet that $1.8 million budget cut.

"As far as I know, Rockport’s going to keep their full staff," Hewson said. "For the busy part of the season, I think that Rockport should be fine."

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The roughly $400,000 Rockport budget was cut this year by about three percent, Hewson said.

Deeper cuts could force the park to close early and open later next spring, he explained.

"It’s going to hurt, there is no question about that," Hewson said. "But they have tried to focus the resources toward the busy parks like Jordanelle and Rockport, to make sure the people who are using those busy parks hopefully won’t notice it."

Utah State Parks receives about $12 million annually from the state’s general fund for managing 43 state parks and museums, the state boating, off highway vehicle and trails programs.

"It hurts State Parks, but it’s not just State Parks, it’s the whole state budget, and so every division and department has to cut back," Hewson said. "Full-time positions are going to be gone and museums are going to be closed one or two days a week, instead of being open seven days a week."

Jordanelle State Park will make do with less as positions stay vacant this summer, Jordanelle Assistant Manager Tracy See said.

"They didn’t want to eliminate anyone, so they’ve tried to make moves, readjust and do anything they can to not have that happen," See said.

She expects about five people throughout the state to lose their jobs.

"They haven’t told us how it’s going to impact us," See said. "I don’t think [visitors] are going to notice at Jordanelle because they tried to make the cuts in areas where the public’s not frequenting."

Meanwhile, expense and travel budgets will be pared as Utah State Parks copes with the economic downturn, according to a prepared statement from State Parks and Recreation.