BOISE -- Idaho state parks may soon sport discrete corporate logos in a revenue-generating effort to make up for reduced state support.
Speaking to the joint budget committee Tuesday, Department of Parks and Recreation Director Nancy Merrill said the parks board will decide next week whether to pursue corporate sponsorships for the state parks system.
"We don't want to overcommercialize our parks," she said. "What we're looking at is carefully designed, sensitively placed logos."
In other states, for example, Subaru has offered to provide park vehicles. Coca-Cola has installed interpretive signs with small "Coke" logos in the corner. Purina Dog Chow has built dog parks, and some park systems have small corporate logos on employee uniforms.
"There are lots of little areas we could glean from," Merrill said.
State support for the parks department was cut last year by $5.4 million, or more than 75 percent. Various temporary measures helped keep all 30 state parks open, Merrill said, but a dedicated funding source is needed to put the agency on a sound financial basis for the long term.
Corporate sponsorships might bring in about $300,000 per year, she said. The agency also raised rates last year, which brings in about $700,000.
This spring, two "electronic rangers" will be rolled out at Eagle Island and Lucky Peak state parks.
The machines, which cost $10,000 to $13,000 each, accept cash or credit card payments and dispense tickets for day-use or overnight visits.
Merrill said the intent is to collect revenue that isn't collected now because the agency doesn't have enough people to staff entrance kiosks continuously.
"We know we're losing fees at the gate," she said. "If (these first two electronic rangers) pay for themselves, we'll take that revenue and buy the next series."
If the agency can't replace the lost state revenue, Merrill said, the next step would be to look at closing parks or eliminating recreational programs.
"That's most distasteful, but we can't put our heads in the sand and not recognize that this is out there," she said. "Until we find a dedicated funding source, this will always be on the horizon."
The agency is preparing a ranking system to evaluate which parks are least important. Should it prove necessary, she said, the evaluations would take place in an open, public process.
Spence may be contacted at bspencelmtribune.com or (208) 848-2274.
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