Tight budgets cut state park summer staff - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Tight budgets cut state park summer staff

by Danielle Wagner

WATERLOO (KWWL) State parks in Iowa are dealing with significant cut backs this year.

In a typical summer, 250 to 300 summer seasonal employees work 180,000 hours cleaning, mowing and doing minor repairs at state parks.

But this year, there are 143 seasonal employees working 74,000 hours doing the same tasks.

Most state parks only employ one or two full-time staffers, so tasks like tree trimming at George Wyth Memorial State Park in Waterloo wouldn't get done without summer employees.

"There's a lot of things that would be left by the wayside, where as with at least having a few seasonal staff we can at least check the bathrooms for toilet paper, we can get some mowing done, we can get some trail work done," said Park Manager Lori Eberhard.

Eberhard said due to budget cuts this year, a grant is the only way she could hire help this summer.

"They applied for an Americorps grant called 'recovery' which was brought out with the stimulus money. Through that grant we were able to keep two of our seasonal positions and add one more summer position for our seasonal staff,"she said.

Summer staffer at George Wyth either attended or are attending the Natural Resources Program at Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo.

"They don't get a great amount of money, but they get a stipend, and then at the end of their service they get a college ed award," said Eberhard.

Eberhard said costly repairs after last year's flood is a main reason for tighter budgets this year.

"In George Wyth a lot of people know how much damage we've had. We're still making repairs. They've just started working on the floating pier this week on Wyth Lake, which is nice to see. Hopefully, the next week or two they'll be working on the Wyth bathrooms so hopefully have that back open," she said.

The campground is also open, but the beach will be closed all summer.

With repairs still needed to be made, and less money to get work done, Eberhard said public help is much appreciated.

"When you come out and have a picnic pick up trash and put it in the dumpster. If you see something broke, let us know and we might not be able to fix it depending on budgets, but if we know it's broke we can stop it from getting broke further," said Eberhard.

Eberhard hopes people take advantage of state parks this summer, but she asks people to be patient as fewer staff people try to keep up with more work.

Reporter: Danielle Wagner

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